By Scott Weybright, College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences
PROSSER, Wash. – People may notice a small, unmanned helicopter flying over Washington vineyards this summer, but don’t worry. Doing work for science, it is fully approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The drone, or unmanned aerial system (UAS), is an eight-rotor “octo-copter.” It uses high tech cameras to assess the status of plant health known as “canopy vigor” and relate that to irrigation water use and evaporation from grapevines. The flights are part of a long-term Washington State University study on subsurface irrigation in vineyards.