In aviation, drones refer to an unpiloted aircraft. It is commonly known as the unmanned aerial vehicle. Drones have existed for many years, and they are used for different purposes, and they can also be of help on numerous occasions. Their applications in various fields have increased exponentially. The device has increased work efficiency and productivity, improving accuracy, decreasing workload and production costs, and resolving critical security issues.
The fast rate of development in the Information Computer Technology, image sensing devices, smartphones and satellite navigation has resulted in lower-priced drones. Developers and researchers have evolved to the use of smaller and less costly drones which are in high demand from governments, individuals, and companies. This electronic device can navigate autonomously, without human control or beyond the line of sight. Without a doubt, drones are among the best advances instruments in today’s aeronautics, robotics, and electronics. One of the most remarkable beneficiaries of this great invention is the agricultural industry. This has been considered to be one of the most multipurpose and resourceful innovations of the century – especially after it perforated this unique sector.
Use of drones in agriculture to measure, observe, and respond to variability found in crops has gained milestone over the past few years. All over the world, farmers are looking for drones to help them increase the yields while reducing costs and other environmental impacts.
Drones in action
Drones for agriculture are still at the infancy stage in the United States though it has been picking up slowly. Ranging from crop management to automated planting and real-time monitoring, drones have a vital role to play in the future of farming. The following are some of the critical, innovative uses of drones during farming:
Crop surveillance and aerial imaging have been making great strides in the recent past. Imagine a farm, 5 miles wide by 50 miles long, that is, 250 square miles of crops that need to be looked after. Monitoring of crops is a vital task in agriculture. It gives a better perspective of the condition of the crops to the to farmers while minimizing the cost of getting a plane to do a film or walking in that vast field. The pictures taken from the drone have the GPS coordinates which are very precise. The photos help in identifying the pests the crops might be battling with if there is any poor irrigation or a fault in any of the pipes, or any other issue that needs to be identified on time and before it is too late or it spreads widely. Drones are getting equipped with a lot more of better lenses than just the regular camera. You may use infrared or multispectral among others which will provide you with a lot more analytics than just the regular camera.
Applying pesticides and fertilizer
For quite some time now, drones have been used to apply fertilizer and pesticides. As the prices of drones are slowly declining, this method is becoming a game changer making precision agriculture a new reality in most regions. It is more efficient and reduces the cost of spraying by crop by more than half. Spraying crops has always been a challenge to farmers – it’s generally expensive, time-consuming and hazardous. Using ultrasonic echoing technology and lasers, crop spraying drones have a lot of advantages over the traditional methods. First, they reduce the number of chemicals used and the risk of over-spraying (they are more precise), are about six times faster and lastly, because they are not manned they are safer. In Japan’s hilly and mountainous areas with terraced paddy fields, drones spray to about 50% of rice crops.
Analysing Soil and Fields
With the right software installed, drones can provide very accurate maps in 3 dimensions to examine the soil and field geography before planting. This can help farmers plan seed-planting patterns and fix any deficiencies. After planting, soil analysis can provide information for irrigation and the management of nitrogen levels.
Recently, in the United States, drones have been equipped with a ‘seed pod shooter.’ It fires nutrient pods which contain a seed into the soil, at just the right depth. Initial results suggest it could decrease planting costs by as much as 85%.
Monitoring Crops and Aerial Imaging
Flying over the crops drones can assess damages on plants after a storm, assess crop progress and identify areas that are being over or under fertilized or irrigated. They provide 2D and 3D maps allowing farmers to calculate and evaluate plant heights, crop numbers, and density. Over time, comparing these images can provide valuable information on the development of crops and reveal production efficiencies or inefficiencies. These comparisons on images from year to year can also provide ideas on better crop management.
Plant Health Assesment
Drones can have sensors fit on them that monitor reflected NIR light (Near Infra-Red). NIR is vital as healthy plants absorb visible light and reflect back NIR, while less healthy plants absorb the NIR more and reflect more visible light. These Near Infra-Red values can give farmers a detailed map and location of plant health – a speedy response can save the entire farm
For those with stock, drones have made it easier to monitor them in hard-to-get-to areas or difficult terrain. They can record where a stock is located, count stock, check for cast sheep during lambing, monitor the progress of ill animals and some farmers have even used them to herd cows.
Drones can be used to create orthomosaics – these are similar to Google maps and are useful if Google maps don’t provide enough detail or are out of date. Orthomosaics are a collection of aerial photographs that are stitched together in such a way they are geometrically correct – that means they are to scale. Maps can also be created in 3D providing information on surfaces and elevation.
Drones with camera capabilities can be used to inspect roofs, power lines, trees, fence lines, paddocks and water troughs.
In Summary – Look ahead and embrace the future!
Eliminate problems early and save your life with a drone. With the aid of drones, farmers can now solve problems in a timely fashion. Scouting crops is a very vital part of farming. If you have no time actually to do it on foot, and planes and fuel are expensive, then drones could possibly eliminate the need for the mentioned methods.
Many of the recently manufactured drones are less complicated and more of user-friendly – they are like model airplanes. These drones are also inexpensive; that is, they are cheap to acquire or purchase.
Shortly, drones are going to be the ultimate farm workers. Let the automated agriculture save us from starvation!