By Bridget Fitzgerald

A new study has found drones still have a way to go before they replace traditional pasture monitoring methods.

University of Western Australia honours graduate Matthew Rowbottom found that the common rising plate meter (RPM) method of measuring pasture was significantly more accurate than using drones.

The Western Dairy-funded research project looked into the effectiveness of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to accurately monitor pasture growth.

Mr Rowbottom said he had originally thought the drones would produce more accurate data.

But he said his hypothesis had been wrong.

“We were looking at predicting pasture biomass on dairy farms,” Mr Rowbottom said.

“My initial findings showed that the UAV or drone did not perform as well as we thought it was going to.”

The research showed the more common RPM method was between 10 to 20 per cent more accurate than UAVs.

Mr Rowbottom said the study showed UAV or drone technology was still very new.

He said it still had “a long way to go, and a long way to develop” compared to the RPM method, which had been around for about 20 years.

“It didn’t work as well as we intended,” he said. “But it still outlined the future for the technology.”

Mr Rowbottom said his research showed the potential for drone use on farms in the future.

He said UAVs would be useful as “interpretive tools” once technology had improved.

By Press