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Drones to monitor Sicilian citrus groves

The first drones have been used in the Catania plain to monitor water stress in citrus groves as part of the "A.C.Q.U.A. – Agrumicoltura Consapevole della Qualità e Uso dell'Acqua" project promoted by Distretto Agrumi di Sicilia and the Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture (Dicar) of the University of Catania with the unconditional contribution of The Coca-Cola Foundation.

After mapping the needs and irrigation conditions of a hundred "sample" citrus fruit companies all over the Sicilian territory, the second phase of the project will provide an overview of the entire island territory and the use of the water resources." 

"We started the high-resolution monitoring of water stress indicators in citrus groves using innovative techniques and drones equipped with special sensors (multi-spectrum cameras). Identifying water stress situations in plants enables the improvement of watering practices optimizing the use of water," explains Antonio Cancelliere, Professor of Hydraulic and Maritime Engineering and Hydrology at Dicar and scientific project head. 

Aerial view from the drone

"From a technical and scientific point of view, the project has a dual objective: contribute to defining an overall picture of the use of water within the Sicilian citrus fruit production chain from both a quantitative and qualitative point of view, and data processing via WebGIS techniques. At the same time, actions to promote innovative methods for a sustainable use of water resources thanks to drone and a pilot irrigation system will also be developed." 

"The project is proceeding as planned. We involved consortia and single companies all over the citrus cultivating territory in Sicily so as to have a systemic approach. In the end, we will have a defined picture of the needs, excellencies and problems of the Sicilian territory," adds Federica Argentati, President of Distretto Agrumi di Sicilia. 

"The mapping will provide precious empirical and scientific data, which will be processed by Dicar to have a specific outlook on the situation. It is our duty to support companies within the citrus fruit chain all over the regional territory so as to optimize resources, reduce their costs, improve their efficiency and respect the environment. Water is an essential resource and we need to learn how to use it smartly."

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