Virtual Reality Crop Scouting Coming to a Field Near You

Virtual reality technology is making it possible to get a close look at a crop without having to set foot in the field. Someday you might not even have to leave the farmyard or office.

Using a 360-degree camera mounted on a quadcopter drone and an off-the-shelf virtual reality headset to hold a smartphone, Matt Johnson of Winnipeg-based M3 Aerial Productions plans to take farmers on virtual scouting tours of their fields.

Flying a foot or two above the canopy, the camera gives the person wearing the headset a detailed view of variations in leaf colour or weed populations.

“You’re immersed in the crop. With this headset I can look wherever I want to look and get a good idea of what the crop has in terms of disease, or some kind of stress that’s happening in there,” explains Johnson in the video below. “Instead of just relying on pictures taken from far above, you can get right up in there and see at the leaf level what’s wrong with the plants you’re looking at.”

Kelvin trying out the virtual field scouting.

Kelvin trying out the virtual field scouting.

There are also situations where virtual scouting will be easier than physically entering the field — for example, after corn gets too tall to see much, when there are concerns about spreading a disease, or when a field is too wet to walk in.

And if the regulatory requirement to keep drones within line-of-sight is dropped, it would be possible scout fields without having to physically visit the field.

Check out the video for more!


Watch VR footage taken while filming the above interview (best watched on a phone in full screen — you can pan to look around the field, also select HD for highest resolution):