Hafenstrom has partnered up with 21 organisations and institutions in the EU-funded project “SPADE”. The name is an acronym for “multi-purpose Physical-cyber Agri-forest Drones Ecosystem for governance and environmental observation”. The main objective is to explore the use of drone technology (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for usability and applicability within fields such as crop production, forestry, and livestock.

By monitoring areas using drone technology, sensors and combining knowledge with data from various data, it is possible to comprehend changes in nature and define strategies for handling the impact being measured. Some examples are how sensors placed in the soil can be used to identify damages to local ecology and entire ecosystems caused by lack of nutrients, pests and disease, saturated soil, temperature fluctuations can be identified. Furthermore, information can be enhanced with cameras using filters and drones traversing predefined routes within preselected geozones/regions. Real time data on draught, flooding or other natural disasters is available through public sources and can further be monitored through remote drones and satellite data.

Observation needs to be conducted in regular and irregular intervals. Three set of activities are of relevance to farmers and land owners alike; provide situational awareness of current status, Identification of changes taken place within a time interval, assist in preparing prognoses for methods to remedy upcoming situations. Having “deep knowledge” about topology, the disposition of the area (health status of arable land and forest), calculating cubic meters of timber, identifying types of wood or grains, weed or invasive species make this possible. However, as larger areas are affected, single drone flights will not be sufficient. Drone swarms fitted with LiDAR, video- and IR-camera supporting various filters, sensors measuring particles, humidity, temperature, geomagnetic changes are a source for up-to-date information relevant in providing the full picture.

Hafenstrom is proud to be part of these efforts. Climate change and imported species cause disturbances in natural occurring flora. Affecting both seaside/shoreside and forest life, the need for observing living conditions become a necessity. The impact on agriculture and forestry raises the need for tools to gather and combine concurrent knowledge. Dependency on import of cultivated food and wood make the community vulnerable. Combined with unpredictability in distribution chains and increased transport cost, the need to be self sufficient is important to national contingency plans.

Knowledge harvested through these means will be part of a digital twin, offering a digital transformation to a real world ecosystem. The introduction of an array of new technologies such as drone swarms and autonomous planning for assisting in farming and cultivation makes for challenging research. Managment of data, truthworthiness and security are topics not often thought of in the context of agriculture. However, with topics related to prognosis on scheduled actions based on machine-learning there more experience is needed. Examples are how to define rulesets for events such as flooding, draught, disease or lack of nutrients in an area and how to configure equipment based on certain task, i.e., observing disposition of the land and forest, calculating content, monitor changes in the terrain etc.

Continuing our journey from earlier projects like GIFT and AURORAL, the experience we can offer and the lessons that can be learned will contribute even more to the field of sustainability and preparedness – whether it being within the energy sector, the public sector, or withiin the field of deforestation and farming.