Drones have been widely used and celebrated in the last few years. They have been used to take amazing aerial photographs that have given us views we had never appreciate before. Drones have also been used for other recreational purposes, but there has been a major shift as the possibilities of using drones for commercial and industrial uses have become more apparent. One of these areas is agriculture. Agricultural drones can perform many different functions that could help to address many of the farming industry’s current challenges.
What is Unique About an Agricultural Drone?
Before we look at the many different current and future uses of agricultural drones, we must consider what makes them so special. A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is controlled remotely. It allows the controller to get a real-time view of a large geographical area. Drones come in different sizes, and the larger and stronger types are capable of being used to deliver various types of cargo and devices. These capabilities allow drones to save time and money. Drones are often used together with other advanced technologies, and this is going to be touched on.
Monitoring, Analysis, and Assessment of Crops and Soil
Agricultural scientists have continued with their research and development efforts to gain a better understanding of crops, the weather, and the soil. This has allowed farmers to make better farming decisions. Precision and smart agriculture take this to the next level. These concepts emphasize the need to make data-driven decisions and to collect and analyze real-time data to improve the farming process and the final yields. Drones are being used to help farmers collect vital information relating to the soil and the crops throughout the agricultural cycle.
Before planting begins, drones can be used to scan the land and produce 3-D maps that facilitate soil analysis. These can be used in planning seed planting and also managing irrigation later in the season. Drones are particularly useful for large, expansive farmlands that may not be as easy to manage as quickly from the ground.
Monitoring crops as they grow allows farmers to respond accordingly to various threats on their final yields. These include anything from weather influences and pests. Drones allow crop growth to be monitored more precisely and more often compared to satellite images, which were used previously.
It is also important to monitor the health of the plants because there are many infections that can affect the farmer’s crop. Instead of doing this manually, drones can carry devices that use visible and near-infrared light to reflect uncharacteristic colors and features on the plants. These images are useful for early detection of bacterial or fungal infections that affect crops. By responding immediately to such detections with fungicides and other treatments, a farmer may be able to save an entire field or orchard. Should the farmer be unable to save the crop, the images are still valuable when it comes to providing evidence for insurance claims.
Planting, Spraying, and Irrigation
Besides the monitoring and analysis of the soil and crops, drones can also be used for the dirty work of the actual farm work, to some extent. Researchers are looking into using drones to assist in the seed planting process. This might involve having the drone shoot a tiny vessel containing the seed and required nutrients into the soil. This is expected to reduce planting costs if successful.
One of the most important parts of farming is spraying the crop with insecticides and other protective chemicals. Drones can be used to do this with precision, which can reduce wastage and stop excess chemicals from going into the soil.