Project Uses Drones to Scan the Needs of Every Tree

Tecnolivo pursues the modernization of oliviculture with the creation of a pioneering technological instrument based on precision agriculture.

Aug. 29, 2018
By Rosa Gonzalez-Lamas

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Olive groves in Huelva and South­ern Por­tu­gal are the focus of Tec­no­livo, a research project which exam­ines the use of pre­ci­sion tech­nol­ogy for the man­age­ment and super­vi­sion of olive tree cul­ti­va­tion with a view to max­i­miz­ing research, tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment and inno­va­tion to gen­er­ate busi­ness in the olive sec­tor.

The €2.5‑million project, led by the Uni­ver­sity of Huelva through its TEP-192 group devoted to con­trol and robot­ics, seeks to man­age agri­cul­tural areas con­sid­er­ing the pecu­liar­i­ties of indi­vid­ual olive trees rather than han­dling entire plan­ta­tions homoge­nously.

To accom­plish this, the project uses drones with sen­sors and mul­ti­spec­tral imag­ing cam­eras.

The sen­sors are placed either on the ground sur­round­ing the trees, or on the trees’ bark to obtain infor­ma­tion about their nutri­tional sit­u­a­tion, hydra­tion, flow­er­ing and fruit.

The cam­eras take mul­ti­spec­tral imagery that cap­tures what is vis­i­ble to the human eye and infrared images that can detect the radi­a­tion gen­er­ated by each tree and the land that sur­rounds it.


Many con­sid­er­a­tions can be deter­mined depend­ing on the analy­sis of band spec­tra. These can reveal whether a plant lacks water or fer­til­iz­ers, if it suf­fers or is at risk of suf­fer­ing dis­eases, and the progress of flow­er­ing and fruit growth, among other con­sid­er­a­tions. The greater the num­ber of spec­tra ana­lyzed the greater the num­ber of vari­ables that can be iden­ti­fied to man­age cul­ti­va­tion more pre­cisely.

What makes this project unique, though, is that it allows to con­fig­ure a com­pre­hen­sive solu­tion that com­bines the data obtained, sent out, processed, inter­preted and visu­al­ized with guided actions in a pio­neer­ing tech­no­log­i­cal instru­ment that is user-friendly for farm­ers. Its devel­op­ers claim it allows for the thor­ough, eco­log­i­cal and opti­mized man­age­ment of olive groves through the non-inva­sive mon­i­tor­iza­tion of agro­nomic para­me­ters that might be rel­e­vant for pro­duc­tion.

Exper­i­ments are being held in Andalu­sia and Por­tu­gal, con­sid­er­ing dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios for olive tree cul­ti­va­tion accord­ing to loca­tion and plan­ta­tion den­sity: a tra­di­tional approach with trees planted apart from each other, an inten­sive approach with a greater num­ber of trees per hectare, and a super-inten­sive approach with the great­est den­sity per hectare. Oleodiel Coop­er­a­tive in Huelva and Por­tuguese com­pany Elaia col­lab­o­rate in the project.

The project’s ulti­mate objec­tive is to pro­vide farm­ers with an easy-to-man­age tool that could be used on a reg­u­lar basis, just as trac­tors or other indis­pens­able equip­ment.

Train­ing will be pro­vided to explain how to use the tech­nol­ogy and inter­pret indi­vid­ual tree data to man­age olive groves accord­ing to each tree’s respec­tive needs and with the great­est pos­si­ble sus­tain­abil­ity, favor­ing the opti­mal use of resources and envi­ron­men­tal preser­va­tion.

Olive cul­ti­va­tion is the focus of the project because olives are the crop with the great­est added-value and eco­nomic poten­tial in Andalu­sia, but the Uni­ver­sity of Huelva is explor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of apply­ing the method­ol­ogy to other crops.

In addi­tion to the Uni­ver­sity of Huelva, other Span­ish enti­ties col­lab­o­rat­ing in the project include the National Insti­tu­tion of Aerospa­tiale Tech­nique (INTA,) and Nues­tra Señora de la Oliva Coop­er­a­tive Soci­ety in Huelva.

Portugal’s National Insti­tute of Aerospa­tiale Tech­nique (INTA,) the National Insti­tu­tion of Agrar­ian and Vet­eri­nary Research, Ubi­where, and Mur­tigão-Agri­cul­tural Soci­ety also par­tic­i­pate in Tec­no­livo.

The project is led by José Manuel Andú­jar, a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Huelva. The R&D project is financed with FEDER Funds from the Euro­pean Union.

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