Crop loss evaluation using digital surface models from unmanned aerial vehicles data

Virginia E. Garcia Millan, Cassidy Rankine, G. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Precision agriculture and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are revolutionizing agriculture management methods. Remote sensing data, image analysis and Digital Surface Models derived from Structure from Motion and Multi-View Stereopsis offer new and fast methods to detect the needs of crops, greatly improving crops efficiency. In this study, we present a tool to detect and estimate crop damage after a disturbance (i.e., weather event, wildlife attacks or fires). The types of damage that are addressed in this study affect crop structure (i.e., plants are bent or gone), in the shape of depressions in the crop canopy. The aim of this study was to evaluate the performance of four unsupervised methods based on terrain analyses, for the detection of damaged crops in UAV 3D models: slope detection, variance analysis, geomorphology classification and cloth simulation filter. A full workflow was designed and described in this article that involves the postprocessing of the raw results from the terrain analyses, for a refinement in the detection of damages. Our results show that all four methods performed similarly well after postprocessing-reaching an accuracy above to 90%-in the detection of severe crop damage, without the need of training data. The results of this study suggest that the used methods are effective and independent of the crop type, crop damage and growth stage. However, only severe damages were detected with this workflow. Other factors such as data volume, processing time, number of processing steps and spatial distribution of targets and errors are discussed in this article for the selection of the most appropriate method. Among the four tested methods, slope analysis involves less processing steps, generates the smallest data volume, is the fastest of methods and resulted in best spatial distribution of matches. Thus, it was selected as the most efficient method for crop damage detection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number981
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Remote Sensing
  • Agricultural Science


  • Crop loss estimation
  • Digital surface models
  • Precision agriculture
  • Structure from motion
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles


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