Propeller and nose cone

The future of agriculture is here!

AG MAPSS: Autonomous Guidance Modular Aerial Plant Survey System.  This system uses a drone at the Arthur H. Post Research Farm.  We plan to perform a drone flyover of the Post Farm on a weekly basis during the upcoming growing season.  Information captured will include 16 MP photographs, 1440p30 Video, NDVI, using NIR at 850 nm and 650nm from the MAPIR camera, and multispectral images featuring the RedEdge Micasense camera, featuring 5 discrete channels, geotags, and 8cm/pixel resolution, with precise GPS location.  Data gained from AG MAPSS will be uploaded to Montana State University’s Box and will be available to all users of the Post Farm, free of charge.  The implementation of technology in agricultural research is of great interest.  Montana is a leader in this area. Each group will not require their own drone and specialized equipment.  AG MAPSS seeks to provide a team model for research and agricultural innovation.  

Advantages of this set of equipment vs others: Many drones are available for both commercial and recreational use and come in an “all-in-one” package.  Unfortunately, this can make it difficult to exchange or repair parts.  To build a drone requires both skill and knowledge, but ultimately an extreme advantage exists allowing for the continual modification and improvement.  This allows the replacement of parts in event of a crash without requiring the repair of the entire drone. The multispectral RedEdge camera, set to be used with MtExtPSPP’s PathoPac (USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant 2016) is designed for use with drones currently, but as researchers come together on additional projects, even more sophisticated cameras will be able to be used as well.  10 cm resolution is available with GPS.   Open access software exists that allows for any researcher to access and process the data.  Multiple years of data will also be available due to the use of MSU’s Box.  The data gained through AG MAPSS can be integrated with all current and future research at the Post Farm providing additional aspects of planting, seeding, emergence, NDVI, farm mapping, yield monitoring, soil monitoring, spraying, fertilizer, pest spread, disease monitoring, harvest and cover cropping. AG MAPSS will provide a model for extended use by the other MAES sites across the state and as an example to other research universities.

Instruction/Student Program Applicability and Impact: The agricultural drone market is reported to generate an impact of nearly 100,000 jobs and as much as $82 billion dollars in economic activity according to the 2015 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Research Report.  These numbers show the critical aspects of integration of drone use across all areas of research at the College of Agriculture and MAES level. The AG MAPSS program will prove to be an excellent demonstration tool for all ages.  A seminar is planned for 2017 instructed by Dr. Myron Bruce, post doc in the MtExtPSPP Lab, and drone flight pilot Dylan Mangel, graduate research assistant of Dr. Andreas Fischer.  This primer will provide all interested parties information on how to access the data through Box, introduction to the software, and an overall description of the program.  Areas of interest beyond agriculture including computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and others could utilize AG MAPSS as a teaching tool.  AG MAPSS can be utilized on Post Farm field days, STEM learning opportunities, and additional campus and community activities.  The system is easily portable for other various events.  AG MAPSS provides real-time demonstrations for special interest groups including those from foundations or government and provides an excellent platform for the integration of on and off campus learning, outreach and discovery. 


For more information on AG MAPSS, please contact Jessica