“It’s flying!”

Our first "Drones for Agriculture" training workshop started today at the Kizimbani Agricultural Training Institute (KATI) in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Drone (or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle; UAV) is a relatively new platform for remote sensing in agricultural research, yet its range of use-cases has been dramatically expanding in recent years. Even in the last few months, our colleagues in CGIAR have published three pilot studies using imagery acquired by drones for detecting crop types in smallholder farmers’ fields, mapping crop phenology, and estimating crop yields.

To further increase our imagery analysis capacity to utilize this rapidly advancing technology across CGIAR, we partnered with WeRobotics, a leading technical NGO providing training and community building on the use of robotics and A.I. technology in development, to organize our community’s first training workshop: “Drones for Agriculture”. Ten trainees from five CGIAR Centers (ICRISAT, IFPRI, ICRAF, CIMMYT, and IITA) and three partner institutes are participating to become the new, official Drone Pilots in Agriculture.

Through the training, we will increase our skills to pilot drones and incorporate the drone-captured data analysis in our research. Reflecting our community’s needs assessed through an online survey conducted earlier this year, the training program’s agenda covers:

  • how to plan and pilot fixed-wing drones in autonomous missions,
  • how to process data and create data products, and
  • how to work with both RGB and multispectral sensors.

Today we started the program with the in-class discussion on our goals, current/potential drone use-cases in agriculture, comparisons (and tradeoffs) between drones and satellites as the source of imagery, and many other considerations to pilot drones in practice. By the end of the day, all trainees were already flying drones over the field (with lots of handholding and guidance). Our collective learning from this training workshop will be shared at the upcoming Drones for Agriculture Knowledge Sharing Day.

This three-day hands-on training is being provided by WeRoboticsTanzania Flying Lab, and Pix4D through the support of CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture.