Agricultural Drones: Revolutionize Farms

- May 25, 2017-

Agriculture is a big business. Today, it is highly driven by technologies and tools like satellite imageries, aerial imageries, and high tech machineries. The latest buzzwords for the sector are drones and robots.

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.

A report indicates agricultural drones are expected to capture 80% of the commercial UAV market and has the potential to generate more than 100,000 jobs in the US. On the same lines, drone technology will give the agriculture industry a high-technology makeover, with planning and strategy based on real-time data gathering and processing. Following are six ways aerial and ground-based drones will be used throughout the crop cycle:

1. Soil and field analysis: Drones can be instrumental at the start of the crop cycle. They produce precise 3-D maps for early soil analysis, useful in planning seed planting patterns. After planting, drone-driven soil analysis provides data for irrigation and nitrogen-level management.

2. Planting: Startups have created drone-planting systems that achieve an uptake rate of 75 percent and decrease planting costs by 85 percent. These systems shoot pods with seeds and plant nutrients into the soil, providing the plant all the nutrients necessary to sustain life.

3. Agricultural pesticide spraying: Distance-measuring equipment—ultrasonic echoing and lasers such as those used in the light-detection and ranging, or LiDAR, method—enables a drone to adjust altitude as the topography and geography vary, and thus avoid collisions. Consequently, drones can scan the ground and spray the correct amount of liquid, modulating distance from the ground and spraying in real time for even coverage. The result: increased efficiency with a reduction of in the amount of chemicals penetrating into groundwater. In fact, experts estimate that aerial spraying can be completed up to five times faster with drones than with traditional machinery.

4. Crop monitoring: Vast fields and low efficiency in crop monitoring together create farming’s largest obstacle. Monitoring challenges are exacerbated by increasingly unpredictable weather conditions, which drive risk and field maintenance costs. 

5. Irrigation: Drones with hyperspectral, multispectral, or thermal sensors can identify which parts of a field are dry or need improvements.

6. Health assessment: It’s essential to assess crop health and spot bacterial or fungal infections on trees. By scanning a crop using both visible and near-infrared light, drone-carried devices can identify which plants reflect different amounts of green light and NIR light. 

For the society at a large, where agricultural drone  is experiencing an explosive growth, there is need for a participatory approach to educate the community about the use and benefits of these technologies.

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