Adoption of an unmanned helicopter for low-altitude remote sensing to estimate yield and total biomass of a rice crop

Kishore C. Swain, Steven J. Thomson, Hemantha P W Jayasuriya

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100 Citations (Scopus)


A radio-controlled unmanned helicopter-based low-altitude remote sensing (LARS) platform was used to acquire quality images of high spatial and temporal resolution in order to estimate yield and total biomass of a rice crop (Oriza sativa L.). Fifteen rice field plots with five N treatments (0, 33, 66, 99, and 132 kg ha -1) having three replicates each were arranged in a randomized complete block design for estimating yield and biomass as a function of applied N. Images were obtained by image acquisition sensors mounted on the LARS platform operating at the height of 20 m over experimental plots. The rice yield and total biomass for the five N treatments were found to be significantly different at the 0.05 and 0.1 levels of significance, respectively, and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) values at panicle initiation stage were highly correlated with yield and total biomass with regression coefficients (r 2) of 0.728 (RMSE = 0.458 ton ha -1) and 0.760 (RMSE = 0.598 ton ha -1), respectively. The study demonstrated the suitability of using LARS images as a substitute for satellite images for estimating leaf chlorophyll content in terms of NDVI values (r 2 = 0.897, RMSE = 0.012). The LARS system described has potential to evaluate areas that require additional nutrients at critical growth stages to improve final yield in rice cropping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-27
Number of pages7
JournalTransactions of the ASABE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010



  • Biomass yield
  • NDVI
  • Nutrient stress
  • Remote sensing
  • Rice yield
  • Unmanned aerial vehicle
  • Vegetation index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Food Science
  • Forestry
  • Soil Science

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