How use of drones in agriculture can change the future of farming

If you are tech savvy or keep yourself updated about new innovations the tech world has to offer, you must have come across the idea of deploying drones in farming or use of drones in agriculture.

With preparation and strategy focused on real-time data collection and processing, drone technology will give the agriculture industry a high-tech makeover.

Farms and agriculture corporations will increase crop yields, save time, and make land management decisions by introducing drone technology to maximize long-term performance.

Although drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have not yet entered the mainstream agricultural arena, they play an increasingly important role in precision farming, helping farmers lead the way in sustainable farming practices at the same time protecting and increasing profitability.

Initially, drones were designed for military purposes, and now they are commonly used in various industries.

Agricultural drones

Agricultural drones assist in achieving and developing what is known as precision farming. There are several uses for agricultural drones, including land and field scouting, weed control, spot treatment plants, overall crop health monitoring, handling livestock, and health issues monitoring.

More drones are fitted with propulsion systems, infrared cameras, GPS, navigation systems, programmable controllers, and automated flight planning.

As agronomists, agricultural engineers, and farmers turn to UAVs to gain more successful crop insights and plan and manage their operations more effectively, tracking crops from the sky using agricultural drones seems set to drive the next one.

Over the last few years, agricultural drone technology has improved, and the advantages of drones in agriculture are becoming more evident to farmers. In agriculture, the drone uses range from mapping and surveying to crop-dusting and spraying.

Agricultural drones are no different on the surface from other types of drones. The use of the drones adapts to meet the needs of the farmer. However, there are several drones explicitly made for agricultural use.

How drones can impact plant health

You can assess plant health based on light absorption with near-infrared (NIR) drone sensors, allowing you a bird’s-eye view of optimal plant health.

You will gather information with farm drones such as the overall crop and plant health, land distribution based on crop type, current crop life cycle, and accurate GPS maps of the current crop area.

The result is clear; drones will help optimize the use of land and resources and allow farmers to decide crop planting locations better.

This includes aerial mapping, tracking of plant health, identification of weeds, and-where legislation allows-spraying of crops.

To reveal plant health, drones equipped with special imaging equipment called Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) use comprehensive color details.

Images can range from clear pictures of visible light to multi-spectral photos that can be used to analyze various aspects of plant health, weeds, and properties.

How drones are being used in agriculture

Agricultural drone use is rising as more farmers understand the technology’s capacity to perform critical tasks and its increasingly evolving potential to take on larger roles in the future.

Figures indicate that private users still dominate worldwide drone sales of 2.8 million.

However, with sales expected to rise from 174,000 drones in 2017 to 805,000 units in 2021, commercial uptake is the primary growth field.

Global financial analysts, PricewaterhouseCoopers, report that agriculture is currently the second-largest drone use market behind construction in that total.

It calculates that drones are now providing farmers globally with $32 billion worth of services. The technology’s appeal has been further strengthened by the decreasing cost of drone equipment, which decreases initial outlays and provides the potential for higher investment returns.

According to leading mechatronics researcher Jonathan Gill, it is possible to recover the cost of a high-tech drone in under three years. He is based at Harper Adams University in England.

Mr. Gill considered a £20,000 camera/drone in a previous estimate, which took three years to pay back on a 200-ha arable land.

The payback came from increased yield provided by more effective nitrogen and disease monitoring made possible by the drone’s multispectral camera.

Why should we use drones in agriculture

Farming drones are fitted with sensors and have good imaging capabilities.  For improved tracking, some also have thermal infrared sensors. Drone systems for farming consist of hardware, sensors, and software.

Even in cloudy climates, they take high-resolution photos.

The bird’s eye view that these drones provide allows the farmers to get the full picture of the field. This helps them detect pest and fungal infections, irrigation issues, variations in soil and many other variables.

What will drones do for farming, then? The response to this question is that overall productivity is rising, but drones are more than just that.

As drones become an essential part of precision farming, they help farmers cope with a wide range of challenges and reap a broad set of advantages.

Most of these advantages arise from removing any guesswork and reducing confusion. Farming success typically depends on many variables that farmers have little to no control over the weather and soil, temperature, precipitation, etc.

The secret to productivity lies in their ability to adapt, which is influenced mainly by the availability of reliable, almost real-time information that will be facilitated by use of drones in agriculture.

Here’s where it can be a game-changer to use drone technology. Farmers can increase crop yields, save time, minimize expenses, and operate with unprecedented precision and accuracy when they have access to a vast pool of data.

As we see today, the world is fast-paced: in nearly a blink of an eye, adjustments, improvements, and transitions occur.

Adaptation is essential, and farmers would be expected to use new-generation technology to tackle emerging challenges given the rising population and the global shift in weather conditions. In recent years, precision technology has powered the farming revolution.

As agronomists, agricultural engineers, and farmers turn to UAVs to gain more successful crop insights and plan and manage their operations more effectively, tracking crops from the sky using agricultural drones seems set to drive the next one.

The modern agriculture industry is at crossroads with world supply at an all-time high and commodity prices at an all-time low due to growing demands for food production and consumption.

In response to tightening budgets, there is a greater need than ever for farmers and agronomists around the world to improve resource management, while the “farm to fork” trend has seen growing pressure for enhanced product traceability as customers become more involved in the origin of the products they buy and how they are produced.

What role will drones have in sustainable agriculture

A seminal report from IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on climate change) stated that sustainable land management is crucial to mitigate climate change.

The quality of land and soil is degraded as a consequence of agricultural activity by humans. According to this report, changing how farms operate could provide cost-effective, immediate, and long-term benefits.

With this in mind, farmers worldwide need to start to mitigate climate change effects and protect themselves from economic losses. Which indicates implementing the use of drones in agriculture is a viable option.

Climate change also continues to generate new layers of uncertainty in defense of supply chain security for the agricultural industry.

These problems are further compounded by rapidly changing environmental factors. Recent estimates indicate that the overall loss of climate change to agriculture across Europe could be as high as 16 percent by 2050.

Indeed, it will remain a priority to maximize sustainability credentials to reduce the impact on the health and well-being of the public and the world, mainly because enhanced sustainability initiatives may also provide additional economic benefits by allowing agricultural professionals to concentrate more effectively resources and efforts.

New technology, such as software for flight planning, allows users to set flight paths to enable better land coverage. With their unique light sensor cameras, the agricultural drones can take images.

Their software allows users to collate and weave geo-tagged images together once these drones land, enabling optimized monitoring. The drones will provide the farmer with periodic updates on the crops, which allows them to decide the future course of action.

Future use of drones in agriculture

In agriculture, the future of drones is unlocked through one crucial step: automation. Farmers do not have the time to be drone pilots, and autonomous drones are the only way to cover the vast expanse of acres of the United States in a scalable way.

If this is completed, ultra-high-resolution, high-frequency data allows for the next generation of precision agriculture.

Looking to the future, use of drones in agriculture where autonomous drone systems are as prevalent as tractors, we can see increased cooperation between farm-based technologies, further unleashing precision farming benefits.

This will include communicating between autonomous drones and autonomous ground equipment, synthesizing ground sensor aerial image data, and weather data, generating a shared AI package that will ultimately replicate and enhance the farm’s daily tasks.

Start-ups have developed drone-planting systems that achieve a 75 percent uptake rate and reduce planting costs by 85 percent.

In the United States, small family farms, averaging 231 acres, make up 88 percent, meaning that 1.85 million farms can benefit from agricultural drones immediately.

Global Business Insights estimates that the size of the agricultural drone business will reach $1 billion by 2024 and 200,000 units will be delivered. GMI attributes the growth to 2024 to growing awareness among farmers of the pros and cons of drones in agriculture.











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