ESTIMATING VEGETATION VOLUME OF COFFEE CROPS USING IMAGES FROM UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES

ABSTRACT Tree crops, such as Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica L.), present enormous technical challenges in terms of pesticide application. The correct deposition and distribution of the active ingredient throughout the aerial part of these plants depends on knowledge of the canopy volume, but manually determining this volume is time consuming and imprecise. The objectives of this study were to develop a method to determine the vegetation volume of coffee crops from digital images captured by camera onboard unmanned aerial vehicles and to compare this approach with traditional vegetation volume estimation (tree row volume (TRV) method). Manual measurements of the canopy volume of four coffee cultivation areas were compared with data obtained using the method presented in this paper. It was concluded that the vegetation volume of coffee trees, a highly important variable in defining pesticide application techniques (in addition to other uses), could be determined in a practical and precise way by digitally processing the images captured by unmanned aerial vehicles. The method is fast and permits the assessment of large areas. Furthermore, estimates based on this method and the traditional TRV method were not significantly different.