Date of Award
Edith Cowan University
Master of Computing and Security by Research
School of Science
The application of drones in broadacre farming is influenced by novel and emergent factors. Drone technology is subject to legal, financial, social, and technical constraints that affect the Agri-tech sector. This research showed that emerging improvements to drone technology influence the analysis of precision data resulting in disparate and asymmetrically flawed Ag-tech outputs. The novelty of this thesis is that it examines the changes in drone technology through the lens of entropic decay. It considers the planning and controlling of an organisation’s resources to minimise harmful effects through systems change. The rapid advances in drone technology have outpaced the systematic approaches that precision agriculture insists is the backbone of reliable ongoing decision-making. Different models and brands take data from different heights, at different times of the day, and with flight of differing velocities. Drone data is in a state of decay, no longer equally comparable to past years’ harvest and crop data and are now mixed into a blended environment of brand-specific variations in height, image resolution, air speed, and optics. This thesis investigates the problem of the rapid emergence of image-capture technology in drones and the corresponding shift away from the established measurements and comparisons used in precision agriculture. New capabilities are applied in an ad hoc manner as different features are rushed to market. At the same time existing practices are subtly changed to suit individual technology capability. The result is a loose collection of technically superior drone imagery, with a corresponding mismatch of year-to-year agricultural data. The challenge is to understand and identify the difference between uniformly accepted technological advance, and market-driven changes that demonstrate entropic decay.
The goal of this research is to identify best practice approaches for UAV deployment for broadacre farming. This study investigated the benefits of a range of characteristics to optimise data collection technologies. It identified widespread discrepancies demonstrating broadening decay on precision agriculture and productivity. The pace of drone development is so rapidly different from mainstream agricultural practices that the once reliable reliance upon yearly crop data no longer shares statistically comparable metrics. Whilst farmers have relied upon decades of satellite data that has used the same optics, time of day and flight paths for many years, the innovations that drive increasingly smarter drone technologies are also highly problematic since they render each successive past year’s crop metrics as outdated in terms of sophistication, detail, and accuracy. In five years, the standardised height for recording crop data has changed four times. New innovations, coupled with new rules and regulations have altered the once reliable practice of recording crop data. In addition, the cost of entry in adopting new drone technology is sufficiently varied that agriculturalists are acquiring multiple versions of different drone UAVs with variable camera and sensor settings, and vastly different approaches in terms of flight records, data management, and recorded indices. Without addressing this problem, the true benefits of optimization through machine learning are prevented from improving harvest outcomes for broadacre farming.
The key findings of this research reveal a complex, constantly morphing environment that is seeking to build digital trust and reliability in an evolving global market in the face of rapidly changing technology, regulations, standards, networks, and knowledge. The once reliable discipline of precision agriculture is now a fractured melting pot of “first to market” innovations and highly competitive sellers. The future of drone technology is destined for further uncertainty as it struggles to establish a level of maturity that can return broadacre farming to consistent global outcomes.
Neetye, H. S. (2023). An investigation of change in drone practices in broadacre farming environments. Edith Cowan University. https://doi.org/10.25958/d8zc-3541