Kansas State University has signed a research partnership with PrecisionHawk Inc., a Raleigh, N.C.-based developer of unmanned aircraft systems and applications that manage the data collected by the vehicles while in operation.

The partnership establishes a 4-year project, “Advancing an end-to-end solution for agricultural applications of unmanned aerial systems and remote sensing,” which begins this month.

Under the project, a K-State agronomy expert and researchers at K-State Salina are using their expertise to help PrecisionHawk create apps and programs that turn the aerial images of corn fields – and, eventually, other field crops – into useful data about potential crop-production issues, such as yield limiting factors and characterization of yield potential, such as plant growth.

Researchers at the Salina campus are conducting flights to determine what photo and video sensors work best to get the maximum information about a field while a UAS is in flight.

Ignacio Ciampitti, assistant professor of agronomy and the project’s lead, is taking information from the images and helping develop algorithms that can be converted into computer software or apps for PrecisionHawk’s Algorithm Marketplace, a recently launched app store with data analysis tools for the UAS market.

The resulting app from the Kansas State University-PrecisionHawk partnership will be able to connect information collected via imagery with support decision tools to estimate yield response to varied management practices with the final goal of predicting site-specific yield potential. Ciampitti anticipates this technology also will be used to predict similar outputs for soybeans, sorghum and other crops.

K-State and PrecisionHawk are both members of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Center of Excellence for UAS.