How Drones are Revolutionizing Agriculture

Written by Isabelle Robinson

 

Image credit: Suwin/Shutterstock

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have many uses across various industries. In particular, the agriculture industry has embraced the innovative technology to meet the high demands of the public and supermarkets.

Drones can help improve productivity and monitor crops to ensure high quality produce.

Currently, most farm owners use technologies such as satellites, manned aircraft or even just personal observations to monitor their crops. However, these methods are known to be extremely time consuming, and ultimately data cannot be collected consistently. In addition to this, farming accidents can prevent farmworkers from monitoring the crops personally and clouds prevent satellites from taking clear pictures.

By automating these tasks with the use of drones, farmers can eliminate these problems, and also collect more data and much faster. The drones can collect, process and record numerous data sets, including temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels. Agriculture drones are capable of performing specialized tasks with high precision such as delivering pesticide and fertilizer. This means that they can deliver a certain amount of payload to specific areas thereby saving resources and time.

It should also be noted that drones are considered safer than manned aircraft when mass spraying chemicals. This is because they don’t cause chemical runoff. This also reduces their environmental impact.

In addition to crop monitoring, drones can also assess the health of the produce. This is important as bacterial or fungal infections in plants can cost the farming industry millions if they develop to be a large-scale problem. Unmanned drones use visible and near-infrared light to scan for these infections by identifying the plants which reflect an unusual amount of green light. This data is stored and tracked by computers to detect and track diseases and the overall health of the crops.

By using this data, farmers can save the diseased crops by targeting the individual diseased plants and applying a remedy. This type of data is also useful when documenting losses for insurance claims.

Another way in which drones are useful to farmers is by surveying the fields and soil. Drones are becoming regularly used in the engineering industry for surveying, and the technology is now being used by farmers to survey the land before the start of the crop cycle. Drones can produce precise 3D maps to plan the seed planting patterns. The technology can also be used for the soil analysis. This is important as the data can be used for irrigation management as well as soil nitrogen-level monitoring.

The areas of stress on the field can be mapped using NDVI which shows the accurate location of the stress and the extent. A soil sample can be taken from these areas to create a soil profile of how much calcium, potassium, and magnesium there is the soil.  This means that farmers can plant crops which suit the soil type or modify the sol to be more productive. This makes farming more efficient and increases profits.

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