Aerial imagery has become a fundamental part of successful modern agronomy programs, but with so many options out there, how do you know which one to choose? There are a few different types of aerial imagery - satellite, drone, and aerial (crewed aircraft) - and multiple providers of each type. Understanding the pros and cons of the different types of imagery and providers makes it easy to determine the best value imagery service for your needs.
Satellite data is the cheapest imagery option on the market, but what are you getting for that low cost? Frankly, not much. Satellites provide low-resolution imagery, ranging from 10 to 1 meter resolution, that provides very little value for agronomy. Modern agronomy programs help growers increase their profits by being extremely precise on where they apply inputs and at what rates. In order to be successful at this, growers rely heavily on farm data, including imagery data. When you are relying on imagery data to help you make crucial management decisions, detail is paramount, and even the highest resolution satellite imagery doesn’t provide enough detail to get the job done. The success of any precision agronomy program depends heavily on the quality of data you are using, and satellite imagery is low-quality data. While satellites do deliver imagery at a high frequency, they can’t work around clouds and other weather conditions, resulting in imagery that is often blemished with clouds and shadows.
Drones do provide high-resolution imagery, but at what cost? A high cost, at a price that is not viable as a continuous crop monitoring solution for agriculture. It takes a drone operator all day to fly the acres that a plane can cover in less than a minute. Add in processing costs and the total cost for drone imagery comes in around $5/acre for a single flight, a high price to pay for a single image. Resolution is not the only key factor in assessing the value of various imagery solutions for agriculture. The frequency of image deliveries also plays a big part. In order for imagery to be valuable for farmers, it needs to be provided at key points throughout the season, and a single drone flight doesn't provide that.
Aerial imagery captured by crewed aircraft offers the low cost benefits of satellite imagery and the high-resolution detail of drones. Aerial imagery providers like TerrAvion can offer growers weekly image delivers at a relatively low cost. Used effectively, high-resolution imagery, delivered at a high frequency, can help growers improve their efficiency in every aspect of their operations.
As you compare prices of high-resolution imagery providers, be aware of exactly what you are comparing. For instance, $1 per acre sounds better than $5 per acre, but what are you getting for those prices? One TerrAvion competitor offers a $1/acre cost, but that price will get you one flight with only select imagery products. A TerrAvion subscription at a slightly higher cost will get you 12-15 flights per season. Be sure to calculate the cost in $/acre/flight, instead of only at the $/acre.
In addition, most imagery providers will quote you a cost for their baseline product and then up-charge you for add on features and image layers. With TerrAvion, you get all of our imagery products, including natural color, synthetic color, infrared, thermal and NDVI imagery, in addition to free access to our desktop and mobile apps and the freedom of unlimited sharing of your data.
For more information about TerrAvion imagery or to get a quote, fill in the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.