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Use of Unmanned Air Vehicles for early, real time detection of extreme weather events in vineyards



To build and develop an acoustic atmospheric tomography technology that delivers accurate, high resolution and real time monitoring of potentially damaging extreme weather events at the level of micro-climate within and above vineyards.

The specific goals are to conduct trials in high value vineyard areas prone to extreme weather.

The trials will primarily demonstrate the accuracy of data and tools for rapid dissemination of information to growers in real time.

Secondary goals include use of the technology to accurately monitor the nature and rate of spread of temperature variations in individual vineyards due to topography and the effectiveness of frost fans.


The impact of extreme weather (e.g. heatwaves and frost events) on grapevines and fruit is well-known and the conditions that lead up to such events are easily recognised.

However, the duration of such weather events, exactly where they occur, precisely how hot it is within individual vineyards and under canopies and what the impact will be on individual plants are all much harder to predict and monitor.

In the longer term, climate change will lead to an increase in extreme weather events, generating a need for growers to know vine and fruit temperatures at the micro-scale with great precision and in real time.

The proposed research has been developed to deliver air temperature and wind speed observations at the micro-scale that are estimated to be accurate to 0.1oC and 0.2 m/s respectively.

Research approach

Initially a 25-acre vineyard will be instrumented with an array of acoustic sensors and horizontal observations of air temperature and wind velocity obtained.

A small quad rotor UAV will be used to overfly the vineyard and obtain observations of sound speed between the ground sensors and UAV, to obtain 3D snapshots of temperature and wind velocity up to a height of 500m.

Consolidated data will be examined by specialists from the Bureau of Meteorology, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the wine industry to assess micro-climate patterns and potential triggers for fruit/vine damage.

In the second year, as the technology matures, data will be combined using the commercially available communications and internet protocols, and information processing accomplished in near real time. A larger Aeromapper UAV (and a higher resolution thermal imaging camera) will be required to achieve this.

During the third year, a much larger (250-acre) vineyard will be instrumented and the ‘cube’ of air, ground, canopy and fruit temperatures and wind velocity disseminated using web-based services to enable a near real time response.

Sector benefits

The results of this project will provide vine and fruit temperatures at the micro-scale with great precision and in close to real time. This information can be used to tailor the management response more sparingly and clinically

Funding partner

This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit programme.