September 23, 2020 7:58 am Published by

Agriculture is one of the most eager adopters of automation technologies, a process known as “smart farming”. And there are very good premises for that: With a global population projection of 9.7 billion people by 2050, agricultural production will have to increase by at least 70% from current levels in order to meet the nutritional demand of the world’s rising population. This trend puts farmers under pressure to produce nutritious products fast while decreasing the environmental footprint of farming. Therefore, modern farmers utilize automation technologies ranging from autonomous tractors, to robotic harvesters, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) referred to as drones and seeding robots to tackle challenges in agriculture more effectively.

In this blog we will dive into the multifaceted applications of agricultural drones and explore how they transform the path towards a sustainable and more efficient agriculture:

1. Soil and field analysis

Drones can produce 3D maps of any type of soil in any geographical area which enables farmers to collect data and determine the most effective ways for seed-planting, managing crops, checking soil quality, finding soil dead zones as well as having a better nutrient management. This data-driven approach helps farmers quickly and precisely detect weeds almost immediately they spring up and apply a minimal amount of pesticide to contain them.

2. Aerial planting

Aerial planting with drones is a relatively newer technology that helps to minimize the need for on-the-ground planting by using compressed air to fire seed pods directly in the soil. This drone-planting system reduces the overall planting times and labor costs and can be applied to a wide range of farm types.

3. Irrigation monitoring

According to a study, the agriculture drone market for irrigation monitoring is predicted to grow with the fastest CAGR in the next 5 years. This is due to the growing demand for drones in water and drought management. The agriculture sector accounts for the vast majority of water used in the world. Water wastage and leaky irrigation systems in the agriculture are a main problem in the context of planet’s finite resources, global warming and rapid population growth. Drones that are equipped with thermal or infrared cameras can detect irrigation issues or fields that are experiencing “hydric stress”, receiving too much or not enough water. Therefore, agriculture drones are a valuable tool for water management in the agriculture industry.

4. Crop monitoring

One of the biggest advantage of using drone technology in agriculture is the effective and easy crop monitoring, especially when we are talking about large-scale crop acreage. Previously satellite or plane imagery were used to monitor the yields. These methods, however, were unsustainable and expensive because the images were not precise enough and their quality was easily influenced by the weather conditions. With drones farmers receive real-time footage of the crop development and adapt their practices accordingly. 

5. Crop spraying

Crop spraying of large fields was done in the past via airplanes or with Crop spraying of large fields was done in the past via airplanes or with vehicles. These methods were very costly and burdensome, considering that crops require consistent fertilisation and spaying in order to give good yields. Also here, drones happen to be a better solution for farmers: they save time and cost and are protected from the continuous exposure to harmful chemicals when manually spraying. Drones can be equipped with reservoirs filled with fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides. They can adjust their height and flight paths autonomously which improves the spraying accuracy and saves resources.

6. Health assessment

Agriculture drones can scan a crop using both visible and infrared light and generate images which are analysed to track changes in the health and maturity of the crop. The ability to assess the health of the crop quickly and precisely is an asset for farmers. It helps them detect, for instance, bacterial or fungal infection in its early stage and take action on time which increases the plant’s ability to overcome the disease and survive. 

Drones have been reshaping the agriculture sector for several years. Now new advanced technologies such as new sensors, easier to use hardware, AI-driven processing make the value proposition for drones in the farm industry even more sustainable. We should keep in mind that drones are one of the many technological advancements that dictate the trends in the agriculture industry, addressing major global issues such as increased population growth, changing consumer preferences and farm labor shortages.

Stay tuned to learn more about these disrupting technologies in our next articles of the Agri-Tech series.

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