NASA and University researchers recently used an uninhabited aerial
vehicle (UAV) to monitor a coffee plantation from the air—even though
the sky was 80% covered by clouds. The Pathfinder Plus UAV cruised
over the Hawaiian plantation for four hours, collecting over 300 images.
Controllers directed the UAV to areas with breaks in the clouds, which
allowed the researchers to create a nearly cloud-free composite image (shown
“The mission demonstrated the capability of this type of
aircraft, with downsized digital imaging systems, to collect
and quickly deliver high-resolution imagery over localized
regions, overcoming the challenging conditions of tropical
cloud dynamics.” said Dr. Stan Herwitz, professor of Earth
Sciences at Clark University, Worcester, Mass. Herwitz is the
principal investigator for the UAV Coffee Project.
Differences in the color of coffee beans observed by the UAV’s
instruments indicate ripeness. Using this data, the harvest manager
directed machines to harvest only those fields with the highest percentage
of ripe coffee cherries.