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NDVI Camera for Drones: What It Is, How it Works, and Benefits

We're talking about our all-new NDVI camera unit that we can install on your suitable drones such as DJI Phantom 4, Phantom 3, the Matrice models or Inspire One. Mapping your fields and practice high-tech crop planning using agricultural UAV drones equipped with an NDVI camera. NDVI is a simple metric which measures and indicates the health of the amount of live vegetation in an area.

How a NDVI Camera Works

We can modify the camera to filter red and NIR waves in an effort to maximize capability for a broad range of agriculture uses. The NDVI (Near Infrared Sensors) pick up the frequency that the crop leaf releases in order to measures the “vigor” of the crop’s health. It's calculated from the visible and near-infrared light reflected by vegetation. Healthy vegetation absorbs most of the visible light that hits it, and reflects a large portion of the near-infrared light. Unhealthy vegetation reflects more visible light and less near-infrared light. The NDVI algorithm compares the reflected intensities of near infrared (NIR) and visible light. Dual band NDVI imaging gives you many of the same benefits of multispectral imaging, without the need for large and expensive equipment.

Image depicting two plants

The NDVI filter captures reflected near-infrared light and red light. By post-processing the captured images, you can apply a color gradient that shows a contrast between healthy and non healthy vegetation. The near-infrared light will show up in the camera's blue channel, in the red light will show up in the camera's red trim making it very easy to separate process for NDVI.

Benefits of NDVI Camera for Agriculture Uses

Crop mapping reveals in any number of measurements for agricultural assessment. It can help a farmer select crops, choose seed types and solve drainage and moisture content of soil. Drone crop mapping delivers far more information than the naked eye can see from a street or farm lane, and it collects data fast and efficiently. By mapping your fields, this activity can be used to anticipate and see the overall health of a crop. It also can help to decide what crops to plant in which fields, and which seed varieties to use. Farm areas as big as 123 acres can be surveyed from a single flight, with or without an Internet signal.

There are some clear advantages from using and DJI Go. The programs know that the drones must overlap the areas being photographed to piece together a proper map that will give farmers and agronomists a 10-day window into the future. After you bring your drone in for fresh batteries, it will fly back to the single point to resume mapping. Once you’re done, NDVI sensors analyze the data and provide increased accuracy when comparing plant health data over time for you, all online.

How a NDVI Camera Calculates

The values are calculated for each pixel of crop mapping data, giving them an index in the range -1 to 1.

What suitable camera your drone is
RGB — or standard — cameras capture Red, Green, and Blue light. This is the camera model that comes stock with most drone models. Modified cameras capture some combination of Near Infrared, Red, Green, and Blue light depending on the model.

Difference in wavelength capture between standard and modified cameras

The figure explains the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum captured by each model of camera. Source: By Victor Blacus (SVG version of File:Electromagnetic-Spectrum.png) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

There are two options for drone cameras
  1. Use a standard RGB camera with the VARI algorithm. *RGB Crop Health maps are only significant when using the VARI algorithm. The VARI algorithm can be used to see the "greenness" of a crop.
  2. Purchase a modified camera that captures Near Infrared Light.