Drone use in many sectors is becoming mainstream, and it will only become more popular on a larger scale. The real-time information they provide allows farmers to make better agronomic decisions in the agriculture industry.
This aerial technology has led to the rise of precision agriculture, allowing farmers to maintain profits while practicing sustainable farming. Drones, of course, play a massive part in this.
Precision farming drones are a valuable tool for small- and large-scale farmers alike. They offer access to high-tech sensors, steering systems, and even farm management software, all in one little package.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, are small aerial platforms weighing less than 20 kilograms. You can control them via a wireless remote or a pre-programmed flight path.
While initial designs are light, we know that drones today can be more than just flying cameras. They can revolutionize entire industries with a few tweaks in their design.
However, in agriculture, drones have proven beneficial in helping farmers attain high-yielding harvests.
Here are some ways that drones can significantly improve farming:
- Spraying – Farmers can outfit drones with tanks of fertilizers and pesticides, as well as seed containers. It automates the process and makes it more cost-effective than traditional spraying methods.
- Surveying – This purpose is relatively straightforward. Drones automatically take pictures using sensors and built-in cameras mid-flight. However, aerial surveying allows farmers to monitor crop health and growth more efficiently.
- Mapping – High-resolution, multispectral maps can be made using drones, regardless of cloud cover. They provide many options for different tasks, such as field management and soil inspection.
Data, Agriculture, and Your Farm
A drone for agriculture purposes mainly provides real-time data for farmers. But how important is data?
The answer is that it’s more important than you think. Drones can do far more than take high-resolution images covering a large area. They can take these images of crop conditions in different bands.
These bands range from visible (RGB) light to near-infrared and infrared spectrum. Once the images are taken, they can be converted via software into prescription maps or “normalized differential vegetation index” (NDVI).
Depending on the operation that farmers want to perform, drones can take different images. These can yield different results and create various maps. These maps can then inform the farmer what inputs to apply, such as seeds, fertilizers, or pesticides.
How are Farming Drones Improve the Food and Crops Industry?
Agriculture drones take farming to an entirely new level. Not only are they cost-effective in collecting data in a short period, but they also make farming more sustainable. In addition to that, the real-time information that drones provide can optimize farm productivity.
Below are the three most significant ways drone technology is changing the landscape of agriculture:
Precision farming drones allow farmers to monitor crop and livestock conditions by air. Thanks to their built-in sensors and cameras, farmers can find problems faster than it would typically take with most ground-level spot checks.
Because they can fly at high altitudes, drones are also great for gathering raw data, such as the following:
- Crop health – Built-in imaging equipment uses detailed color information to detect plant damage due to pests and pest-related infections.
- Soil analysis – Managing plant nutrients need not be laborious. Drones can photograph and detect color changes in the soil.
- Vegetation indices – Factors like plant height, leaf area, and yield are all measured more easily via aerial survey.
- Water and irrigation needs – Water-stressed areas in a field or orchard show as a different color in near-infrared or infrared imaging
Using a drone for agriculture purposes ensures cost-efficiency, which comes from how agriculture is time and labor-intensive.
Additionally, the cost of materials and equipment from planting to harvesting also puts pressure on farmers to pursue profitability. Agriculture, like other industries, relies on cost-effective methods and multipurpose tools.
Having drones provide real-time data saves farmers time and resources like fertilizer, pesticides, and water. Farmers can even automate the monitoring process by pre-programming flight paths based on GPS data.
This automatic programming results in the optimal use of inputs, the timely protection of crops, and securing high yields.
While most drones are strong enough to lift themselves, other drones have enough lift capacity to carry small payloads. It allows them to transport cargo from one place to another in many industries.
An agriculture drone is capable of various things, like other industrial equipment. Powerful rotors allow for spraying and seeding, while powerful cameras and sensors allow mapping and surveying.
Drones can also be outfitted and paired with different software. Features like Bluetooth connectivity and cloud storage allow farmers to save this data and monitor changes over time.
In addition to this, drones can also work with farm sensors and GPS systems to create extensive soil maps. It is a process known as “geo-mapping” and gives farmers access to data like pH values and pest infestations.
Agriculture has always been labor- and time-intensive. Aside from sunlight, water, and nutrients, growing crops requires careful soil preparation, planting, crop protection, and even fertilization.
Because of this, traditional farming tools have continuously given way to more advanced and cost-effective farming implements. Changing climate conditions also mean that farmers need to adopt more sustainable practices.
While there are risks and limitations, precision drone in farming also offers great potential, especially in production.
When all of this is considered, it makes sense for a farmer to deploy a drone for agriculture purposes. It gives them the much-needed efficiency and pushes them to make their farms productive.