Aerial Mapping of Agricultural Areas Using Drones

The last field survey done in the UAE was in 2005 and since then the Ministry has been relying heavily on statistical data from the 2005 survey, thus creating the need to have a new agricultural survey done with high accuracy, speed, and low cost. A drone-enabled aerial mapping system was used to generate high-resolution highly efficient aerial data over 1100 square kilometre within 12 months, at a cost of less than five times the cost of a field survey, and obtaining 52 parameters statistical data.

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Field surveys usually require 36 months to cover all farming areas. Using a drone-enabled aerial mapping system, the project was achieved within 12 months. Moreover, the drone-enabled project requires one fifth of the cost of using the traditional field surveying way. The importance of the project was to identify the numbers and areas of land planted with trees, which represent sustainable crops, or those planted with seasonal crops such as vegetables fruits, as well as all kinds of field crops. This gives a clear picture that helps to predict and study the quantities of production that can be obtained, recognizing the areas planted with forage that represent a necessity for the development of animal production, which in turn also allows the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment to draw up a plan for the possibility of self-sufficiency in some types of feed and start reducing the quantities imported from abroad. This will also help the Ministry to provide the necessary support to increase the productivity and effectiveness of these feed planted areas so as to contribute to boosting animal development in a sustainable manner, and resource efficiency, developing future plans for marketing agricultural products in the local market and determining the extent of their qualification for international accreditation for sustainable agricultural products. This in turn will promote sustainable agricultural practices, and unify the agricultural platform at the federal level, updating it in a manner that raises the results of the country's competitive and international indicators.

Impacts of the project are:
- Achieving the goals of sustainable development by making optimal use of the country's resources and preserving the environment;
- Including the optimal and sustainable use of water and the extent of expansion in applying the concepts of sustainable agriculture and preserving the environment;
- Studying the self-sufficiency in some agricultural products and the possibility of opening their export to foreign markets, thereby improving the country's trade balance;
- Identifying the effect of climate change resulting from agricultural production by estimating the amount of carbon dioxide associated with agriculture, especially forecasting the amount of agricultural waste, which in turn can be recycled and converted into valuable products;
- Establishing contingency and crisis plans for biological security that are closely related to agricultural machinery and animal diseases in a manner that covers all farms across the country;
- Utilizing modern technology in aerial surveying using drones, which places the UAE among the top five countries in the world in terms of area surveyed using unmanned aerial vehicles, and the first to employ this technology to map as many as 50 Statistical statements; and
- Collating more than 12 terabytes of high resolution pictures, which enabled to obtain some important algorithms in the field of census through aerial imagery.

Tools & technology are:
- Fixed wing drones;
- High Resolution RGB orthomap (ground sampling distance 5cm). File format: geo TIFF(.tiff), KML tiles (.png/. Kml). Compatible with: Esri ArcGIS, Global Mapper, QGIS, Autodesk, DraftSight, Geo media, Erdas Imagine, Google Earth and all leading Brands of remote sensing & GIS software; and
- Multispectral Orthomaps (ground sampling distance 15 cm). File format: geo TIFF (, tiff), .shp. Compatible with: SMS (Ag leader), AgPixel, QGIs, Esri ArcGIS, Global Mapper & all leading brands of GIS software. Due to time constraint, if the project was delayed for external reasons, the process could be speeded up by not collecting Multispectral data and focus only on RGB, so the project could be delivered on time. This will only affect vegetation data, but all counts and GIS will not be affected.
- 3D DSM (Digital Surface Model) (ground Sampling Distance 5 cm). File format: wavefront obj. Compatible with: Autodesk, Bentley ccViewer, 3D Reshaper.
- Contour Map: (Ground Sampling distance 5 cm). File format: dxf,.shp. Compatible with: Valcan, I‐site Studio, Autodesk, DraftSight, Esri ArcGIS, Surpac and all leading brands of remote sensing and GIS software.

Future plans include utilising various methods to sustain data updating through several initiatives such as using of high-resolution satellite imagery to identify changes in areas and permanent crops, and using the internet of things to monitor crop health and productivity.

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