A crop height model (CHM) can be an important element of the decision making process in agriculture, because it relates well with many agronomic parameters, e.g., crop height, plant biomass or crop yield. Today, CHMs can be inexpensively obtained from overlapping imagery captured from unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms or from proximal sensors attached to ground-based vehicles used for regular management. Both approaches have their limitations and combining them with a data fusion may overcome some of these limitations. Therefore, the objective of this study was to investigate if regression kriging, as a geostatistical data fusion approach, can be used to improve the interpolation of ground-based ultrasonic measurements with UAV imagery as covariate. Regression kriging might be suitable because we have a sparse data set (ultrasound) and an exhaustive data set (UAV) and both data sets have favorable properties for geostatistical analysis. To confirm this, we conducted four missions in two different fields in total, where we collected UAV imagery and ultrasonic data alongside. From the overlapping UAV images, surface models and ortho-images were generated with photogrammetric processing. The maps generated by regression kriging were of much higher detail than the smooth maps generated by ordinary kriging, because regression kriging ensures that for each prediction point information from the UAV, imagery is given. The relationship with crop height, fresh biomass and, to a lesser extent, with crop yield, was stronger using CHMs generated by regression kriging than by ordinary kriging. The use of UAV data from the prior mission was also of benefit and could improve map accuracy and quality. Thus, regression kriging is a flexible approach for the integration of UAV imagery with ground-based sensor data, with benefits for precision agriculture-oriented farmers and agricultural service providers.
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