July 8, 2019 | By: | Agronomy,Technology

Drone Stand Counts- Future or Science Fiction?

Self-driving cars, teleportation, a colony on Mars—there are endless ideas for future technologies that would make our lives easier. Some are closer to reality than others.

At Peterson Farms Seed, we have a commitment to exploring new technologies and finding ways to bring more value to farmers– to help you raise more bushels. One of the elusive technologies we’ve been hearing about for years is doing drone stand counts.

There have been several roadblocks to making this happen but the technology seems to be catching up with the idea. And some recent tests have me pretty excited about the potential.

Traditional Stand Counts

When traditionally doing stand counts, you really can’t cover the entire field, so you take 15-20 counts to represent the variation in the field. Doing 20 stand counts on a 160-acre field only represents 0.0125% of that field. So, the notion of a drone doing the counting sounds pretty great, right?

Stand counting our test field

The Roadblock: Time

Time has been the biggest barrier to being able to use a drone to count a whole field. In order to fly a 160-acre field at 50 feet of elevation with enough overlap to map the entire field would require 44 batteries, with 21,415 pictures, and take 11.5 hours!

To solve for this, some tech companies have started to marry traditional stand evaluation techniques with the technology. The idea is to lower the overlap so that the drone is only taking a single picture every acre and analyzing that single picture to determine the total stand of that spot.

With this approach you’d cut back on the time and total pictures taken BUT would gather a lot more information  when compared to boots on the ground scouting:

160 acre field= 160 pictures, each with 50 stand counts totaling 8,000 stand counts/field

Testing the Tech

To test this technology, we flew and analyzed a field weekly. In the picture below you can see that we variable rate planted this field. We chose this field to see if the stand counting technology would pick up the change in population.

Test Field- Variable Rate Map


The below photo shows that it did exactly that! It also shows a close correlation to the planting map. We then went out and verified the drone captured number with traditional stand counts and determined the numbers to be reasonably accurate. Some were even more accurate than hand counting.

Drone Stand Count

Drone Stand Count

Bottom line, this technology looks promising! We will keep testing and reporting back on our findings. Look for future posts about the work we are doing with new technology and precision ag. Call or email me if you have questions about how to implement precision ag practices on your farm. or (701) 282-7476.



Nolan Berg, Precision Systems Agronomist

Nolan Berg

If you say “jump”, Nolan Berg won’t just ask “how high”… he’ll show you. Nolan pole vaulted for NDSU’s track team (his personal best is 16’ 2”), and his drive and determination carry over into his ever-evolving position as Precision Systems Agronomist. With a master’s degree in Plant Sciences and tenure as track team captain, Nolan is a great fit to lead our precision ag activities, work with zone creation and UAV imagery, and assist with the seed increase program for new genetics. In his downtime, Nolan enjoys hunting, mountain biking, running, and photography.

Get the latest blog updates in your inbox.

RSS Feed