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  • Maik Wolleben

6 Years in the Making: UAV Soil Moisture Sensor

The Department of Geography at the University of Guelph recently purchased a Skaha Labs drone-mounted L-band radiometer. I met with Prof. Aaron Berg and his team there to conduct test flights over multiple sites. They use a DJI M600 for their larger instruments and had no problem fitting the radiometer under their drone.

Operating at a frequency of 1.4 GHz, the sensor was not affected by radio interference from the drone and could handle external interference thanks to its polarization-based filtering method. Moreover, the sensor proved exceptionally stable. So stable, in fact, that raw data acquired over two days could be combined without any calibration or offset adjustments.

The picture below shows the M600 drone with the radiometer mounted underneath and data collected over a research field consisting of 56 plots, each 12 by 6 meters in size and growing different crops under varying soil conditions. As can be seen, the radiometer can easily pick up subtle changes in soil and canopy conditions.

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