Welcome to the fourth installment of our series on science and technology solutions for the viticulture industry!

The general theme of this week's post revolves around the fact that there is a very significant difference between information and data - though these terms are often used interchangeably. Data are simply raw numbers, while information is the end-result of research, processing, and testing. While many organizations in the marketplace collect and deliver data as a final product, at Hawk Aerial, we're in the business of delivering information to our clients.

As vineyard vigor and disease mapping are based on evolving science and technology, the creation of maps that confer accurate, useful information depends on:

  • deployment of highly specialized equipment;
  • skilled application of data capture techniques;
  • a history of perpetual investment in sound scientific research and experimentation.

This post will be a brief treatment of how analytical mapping must be executed in order to serve as an effective tool for the vineyard manager. 

There are nearly 300,000 species of flowering plants on our planet, all of which reflect slightly different ranges of solar energy wavelengths, depending on their genus, species, variety, and health status. Thus, vine foliage reflects very slightly different portions of the light spectrum than that of the potato plant, oak leaves, or blueberry bushes. The application of a general vegetation index to fields planted in any crop is a common practice in today's marketplace - yet this approach is far too broad to be of any real use to the vineyard manager. 

Accurate and usable wavelength reflectance data is best captured from a drone at no more than several hundred feet above ground. Capturing this data accurately from an airplane requires extremely sophisticated equipment, complex scheduling, and is reliant on favorable weather conditions.
Data captured from drones features higher ground resolution, is virtually free of distortion created by the diffractive effect of water vapor in the atmosphere, and features precise locational repeatability of image capture in subsequent missions. It also relates only to objects in the area of interest (read: vines), lessening the interference created by the abundance of color present in large field-of-view images. The benefits conferred by these factors include:

  • Vigor or disease data for each individual vine;
  • Much less need for corrective processing, which can degrade the raw data and thus decrease the reliability of the final product;
  • Eliminates potential effects of varying position and altitude during image capture while comparing different vigor or disease datasets over time. 

The reflectance data that is fundamental to accurate vigor and disease mapping in grapevines resides in very narrow, specific ranges, known as bands. The bands corresponding to normal vine health shift at different phenological stages, and even between varietals, in infinitesimal but very significant gradations.
Our research partners have isolated the various iterations of significant wavelength bands through the painstaking use of ultra-accurate hyperspectral imaging, coupled with exhaustive and rigorous research in California vineyards, over the past 15 years.


Once these highly specific ranges of wavelength reflectance data are collected and preprocessed, the process of algorithmic referencing and verification begins. This is made possible by use of our proprietary vitis vinifera health databases - storehouses of verified, ground-truthed vine health information. We've been compiling these deep databases through a decade and a half of research to date. We are continually joining new data to them as our research forges forward - driving their growth, and in turn, the evolution of our best-in-class service, which is getting smarter and more accurate every day.  

So there you have it - the other guys give you data. We give you information.