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12 unmanned systems inside February/March 2017 AIR AGRICULTURE and more reliable than conventional sunflower plant counting," Meulien said. "Usually our cus- tomer hires seasonal workers to estimate gap lengths for each micro-plot. These people have to walk through the fields and estimate gap lengths from close up. Different people count in different ways and even the same person will change his or her way of counting over a period of time," Meulien said. "And in the end there is still no way to check the quality of the results." Contrast that with drone-based counting, Meulien said, "In a single drone flight, less than two hours in duration, we can map an area that takes days to cover on foot. "Note also that the starting point of our algo- rithm is an orthorectified raster image that can be viewed as a snapshot of the crop and is avail- able for later use. So the customer can check the quality of the results from that image, because they can view simultaneously the identified plants and the raster image." Meaningful Results "The sunflower is very important to Maisadour Semences," Calvet said. "It's the species we sell the most." And, he said, while the company hopes to continue working with Delair-Tech, that effort isn't about replacing the current workforce with machines: "For the moment, our teams are designed to do the work manu- ally and our goal is not to replace them anytime soon, but this application could save us money should we decide to expand and create new teams." On the question of possible new applications, Delair-Tech's Grignard said, "Our algorithm is well adapted to estimating corn plant count. (That is) still in trial fields, but this method can also be valuable in other applications." Those other new applications could include identify- ing where trees are missing in large orchards and helping farmers make the decision to re- plant early in the season, after plant emer- gence. "All these could be crucial for farmers," Grignard said, "to have a global and accurate view of their fields, making it easier to manage key decisions." "The drone-based counting technology of- fers new possibilities," agreed Calvet, "like be- ing able to have an image of the field that we can go back to anytime we need to during the season. The whole concept of geolocalized parcels and micro-plots is also quite new and interesting. It's a new way of approaching our work and could end up being a new source of applications." Calvet said Maisadour Semences is looking into potential new applications in very spe- cialized areas such as normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). NDVI, a ratio of sev- eral wavelength bands typically re-emitted by "OUR ALGORITHM IS WELL ADAPTED to estimating corn plant count. (That is) still in trial fi elds, but this method can also be valuable in other applications." Lenaïc Grignard, Delair-Tech agriculture product manager MAISADOUR SEMENCES • 2015 Income: €115,848,000 • Located in Haut Mauco in southwestern France • Produces a number of varieties of sunfl ower and other seeds. • Active in more than 40 countries across continental Europe and around the Mediterranean basin. Photos courtesy of Björn S. and Delair-Tech