Agricultural Drone Application

- May 24, 2017-

Just like the application trace of other technologies, consider the technological possibilities in agricultural that lie just beyond the horizon.

Nowadays you can see fully autonomous farm equipment that seed and harvest crops under control from a distant laptop computer.  Agricultural drones that can monitor crops throughout their growth cycle and execute precise amounts of pesticide spraying or herbicides exactly where and when they are needed. Smart ear tags that alert the rancher whenever a cow, horse, sheep or pig appears to be sick or in distress – and then transmit the animal’s exact location. Is it all some futuristic flight of fancy? Perhaps, but the technology to make all these things possible is nearing reality.

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Agricultural drones are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) used for precision agriculture, which is a modern method of farming that uses Big Data, aerial imagery and other means to optimize efficiency. They offer powerful data processing capabilities afforded by Cloud-based computing to deliver aerial monitoring, inspection, and intelligence-gathering capabilities.

Japanese farmers are already using spraying drones to apply pesticides in steeply inclined fruit orchards and in flooded rice paddies where access with traditional sprayers is difficult. Agriculture stands at the doorstep of a new technological revolution, with the potential to increase farm efficiency unlike anything since the “green revolution” of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, when the introduction of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides doubled global production of cereal grains. The work of improving varieties of high-yielding grains, fruits and vegetables will continue, as will the development of more effective and less environmentally damaging herbicides and pesticides. But the next revolution in agriculture will almost certainly be driven by the introduction of new precision farming techniques that are almost surgical in their application.

The seeds of precision agriculture were first sown nearly a quarter century ago. In 1992, the company Ag Leader Technology introduced the first commercially available grain yield monitor, a device that allows farmers to accurately measure the mass of grain harvested by a combine on an acre-by-acre basis. With this information, farmers can better understand where their fields are most productive and where problem areas exist. They can then formulate management plans to address any deficiencies. This was followed by the introduction of auto-steer guidance. Using global satellite navigation systems, machinery operators can now guide their tractors and combines to within a single foot of any plotted location. This can virtually eliminate “slop-space,” putting more rows in a farmer’s fields and increasing his per-acre productivity.

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