Many farming businesses are now considering the use of drones in the past years. With drone legislation being passed all over the world, they are quickly becoming possible for the modern agricultural practice to integrate these powerful tools into their farming exercises. These drones allow commercial agriculture to make sense of the physical world by capturing aerial images and data to create accurate maps and 3D models for further analysis.
These analyses are critical in enabling farmers to make more informed decisions that will increase efficiency, drive return on investment and improve safety. Such benefits have led to increased popularity not only I the agricultural industry but also other sectors such as surveying, mining, construction and many more.
Choosing the Right Agriculture Drone
Today’s farmers deal with increasingly complicated concerns. Issues such as uncertain commodity prices, quality and quantity of water, climate change, soil quality, glyphosate-resistant weeds, and increasing input prices a many more. Best agriculture drones should be able to perform quite a number of several tasks:-
- To start with, a quality drone should be able to deliver crop surveying and data collection. This implies that a drone with a high-quality camera should be used. Such type of drone will ease the real-time monitoring of crops condition or the farm at large. Therefore, it is important to look for an unarmed vehicle that has a stabilization system. This reduces the footage shakiness and contributes to a more productive surveillance process.
- The next critical attribute to consider is on whether to use a fixed wing or a multi-rotor drone. However, a lot of farmers prefer fixed wing to multi-rotor for several important benefits these have. Multi-rotor drones have batteries that do not last for a longer period. Thus a fixed-wing drone can spend much more hours in the air. This characteristic makes them ideal for farmers with large farms. Moreover, they carry more payload. This implies fixed-wing drones are equipped with a bigger number of sensors than the multi-rotor ones.
- Additionally, there are several upgrades and features to look into. Some drone models can come with a remote controller, an optional ground control station, and additional sensors for better surveillance.
A few other factors to look for when deciding the kind of drone to use during farming:
- Use of memory points to return to a place of interest
- It can record video apart and live streaming
- Integrated GIS mapping
- Safety features such as fly home in the case of loss of control
- Automatic or manual control modes
- Easy control of the drone
Choosing the Right Drone for the Job
As a characteristic of precision agriculture, geo-tagged aerial images, done by satellite or maybe through the pilot operated aircrafts, are one of the tools to help measure, observe and respond to in-field variability. Drones have quickly gained milestone and became another tool for capturing geo-tagged images.
Practical applications in legumes are similar to images obtained through a fixed-wing aircraft or a satellite. During planting season, a drone can be deployed and used to help assess crop health and production challenges such as:
- Yield assessment
- Crop Emergence
- Nutrient sufficiency such as nitrogen deficiency caused by nodulation failure
- Disease assessment to allow more timely spraying – mycosphaerella blight, root rots, Aphanomyces, and Aschochyta blight
- Insect infestations such as grasshoppers and cutworm
- Crop uniformity
- Evaluate spray drift from other fields
- Assess herbicide and fungicide performance
Drones are key have added advantage in crop monitoring over methods such as satellite imaging and manned aircraft, but they do have some limitations too.
- Cost savings: reduce the number of physical employees and for fields, less than 150 acres in size, using drone imagery can be cheaper
- Detailed imagery: Drones can fly very low, and its cameras capture centimeter-level images
- Drones can be flown under the cloud cover that can block satellite imagery
- A quick aerial view from drones can help in directing on-ground scouting to problem areas.
- Greater frequency: Drones can obtain more frequent images that will help to track crop development indexes.
- Weather dependent: It is affected more by adverse weather conditions such as wind compared to fixed wing aircrafts and satellites.
- Time constraints on large farms – obtaining many images over a vast field is time-consuming than using satellite imagery
- Lack of historical photography unlike some satellite imagery
Types of Drones
Used as a scouting tool and remote sensing instrument, agricultural drones come as a multi-rotar model or fixed wing.
Fixed wing drones
- Cover more area and spends more time in the air. It is best suited for larger fields of around 150 acres.
- It has more payload, capture more imagery per flight and more sensors.
- Suits quick deployment of checking fields and trouble areas
- More manoeuvrable and best at 3-D imaging
- Suited for constrained areas for precision imagery or fields less than 160 acres
- Less payload capacity and thus, it can carry few sensors, one or two.
- Slower flight speed as it takes twice as long to fly a field for images compared to a fixed wing drone
Choosing the Right Drone
Choosing a drone depends on the planned uses. Multi-rotor drones are so much limited in their capabilities by the number of sensors they can accommodate. However, they are best suited for spot-checking farms’ trouble areas, manoeuvring in close quarters and quick scouting missions. Fixed wing drones are best at larger fields where they can be fly around an open space and imagery can be taken in unobstructed, straight line passes.
It is important to assess each drone’s capability for sensors. If you think that you just need visual light images to take aerial images for crop scouting, a multi-rotor drone with HD camera might be a basic tool.
A final factor to put into consideration is the type of data management capabilities that you as a farmer require. The data collected by drones can be used to manage data and provide prescriptions for different farming methods. Some drone companies offer this type of service – total management system. Growers should also ensure that their drone, data management software, and sensor capabilities match their agronomist’s data management and prescription software so that they can utilize the beautiful pictures well.