Above (left to right): Ryan Riley and Evan Flatt from GRYFN with Carla Gho and Daniel Smith from the APPF University of Queensland node fit the GRYFN ‘Gobi’ sensor package to the new field phenotyping drone.


APPFs national phenotyping capability is truly ‘taking off’, thanks to the recent delivery of one of the most sophisticated UAV phenotyping sensor packages ever deployed in Australia.

The new drones and GRYFN ‘Gobi’ sensor package will allow phenotyping of crop traits at high speed and with greater precision than currently possible. This sophisticated multimodal package combines RGB, hyperspectral and LiDAR sensors with a world leading global positioning system to generate precisely aligned data from the three sensors. GRYFN provides an integrated software tool for processing these data streams against a common timeline.

Combined with work done in APPF’s network of facilities, the aim is to allow Australian plant scientists faster delivery of new insights and crop improvements for the farming community.

APPF team members from across our national network of plant phenotyping nodes gathered in Adelaide last week for a week of training on the new drone platform, including detailed discussion of topics from planning flight profiles to collecting and processing data.

GRYFN CEO Matt Bechdol, Director of Solutions Evan Flatt and UAS Pilot and Data Analyst Ryan Riley  travelled to Adelaide from their base in Indiana, USA, to provide their insights and expertise on implementing the sensor and data processing packages.

Training on the drone operating rules for Australia and conducting safe flight operations was provided by the University of Adelaide Unmanned Research Aircraft Facility (URAF), including URAF Director Molly Hennekam, Lead Data Analyst, Pilot and Instructor Dillon Campbell, and Senior Maintenance and Compliance Officer Steve Andriolo.

Associate Professor Nik Callow, from our University of Western Australia node in Perth, said the week exceeded all expectations and enhanced his level of confidence in the strength and capabilities of APPF’s network.

“I’m looking forward to contributing to work to collate the shared experience and knowledge from across the nodes, and working with the APPF Data Team to build workbooks and pipelines to get from field data collection to a data product,” he said.The APPF Data Team, led by Donald Hobern, worked with the node representatives to help establish common data processes, standards and pipelines across all the nodes, for more streamlined processing and sharing. Various protocols, user needs and potential solutions were discussed within the group, which helped narrow the pathway to delivering high quality field phenotyping and data assets for advancing crop research.

Along with the classroom-style technical training and hands-on flying experience at Waite Oval, the course participants were able to use their time together to socialise, compare experiences and local issues, and strengthen the interpersonal bonds that connect our infrastructure network.

All in all it was an excellent week with great information, great technology and, importantly, great catering.

Thanks to APPF Head Office staff Alison Hay and Kirsten O’Donnell for organising the myriad details that makes these events work, the consultants from GRYFN for their time and knowledge, and the URAF team from Adelaide University for their expert support.