February 2014

SportsTurf provides current, practical and technical content on issues relevant to sports turf managers, including facilities managers. Most readers are athletic field managers from the professional level through parks and recreation, universities.

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12 SportsTurf | February 2014 N ew technology can bring a unique perspective to turf management. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or "drones," can provide valu- able information to aid sports turf managers. As part of a management program, drones can save time, labor, and money. Drones are semi-autonomous aircraft that come in a vari- ety of shapes and sizes (see photo). Drones are capable of fully automated flight via GPS-based navigation or manual flight via radio-controlled transmission. They are available as multi-rotor helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Companies including Quadcopter, LLC, Lehmann Aviation, Pixobot, LLC, MicroPilot, Inc., and senseFly, Ltd. manufacture and sell drones for public use or provide drone-related services. They can be relatively small, about the size of a large pizza, to several feet in diameter or length. Drones require little tech- nical training and do not require a pilot license for operation. They can operate in a wide range of environmental condi- tions. Drones can fly in hot or cold temperatures, humid or dry air, and sunny or cloudy skies. Although Federal Aviation Administration regulations currently prohibit drone flights for commercial operations, rule changes could come as early as 2015. Recently, farmers were granted permission to operate drones over their own property for personal use, in accordance with guidelines established by the Academy of Model Aeronautics. WHAT DRONES DO In a turf management program, drones are best used as a platform for collecting aerial imagery. Digital cameras collect visible light reflected from surfaces. Visible light is the por- tion of the electromagnetic spectrum "visible" to the human eye; it ranges from 400-700 nanometers (nm) in wavelength. Digital cameras record visible light information into three channels—red, blue, and green (RGB)—that make up each pixel in an image. Imagery can provide real-time information on many aspects of turf quality important to turf managers. Images can be analyzed with computer software and used to quantify turf status through a process called digital image analysis (DIA). The DIA method is recognized for its ability DRONES OFFER UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE TO TURFGRASS MANAGERS A custom- made unmanned aerial vehicle, or "drone," is shown flying over turf. Drones are used as a platform for digi- tal image analysis, enabling quick and efficient quantifi- cation of turf qual- ity and stress. Image by Keenan L. Amundsen. Field Science | By Scott M. Dworak, Dr. Roch E. Gaussoin, & Vishal Singh

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