The Impact of Agricultural Drones

06 June 2019
Food and Drink

From mail delivery services to insurance claims opting for crop monitoring, drones are becoming a societal norm. While drones have been utilized in the common sector for years, they have just recently made headlines in the world of commercial agriculture. By featuring modern technology as an industrial resource, commercial farmers are now using unmanned aerial vehicles to streamline processes and increase profit. What has yet to be discovered is the impact that UAVs will have on the environment as their use intensifies. As it stands, the future looks bright.

Mapping and Surveying Made Easy
One common use of agricultural UAVs involves mapping and surveying crop field areas in order to maximize resources. Land, water, and fertilizer requirements can be closely estimated with detailed GPS crop maps. Thermal cameras can detect fields that are well watered and ones that contain dry patches. As a result, field irrigation schedules can be adjusted to use the exact amount of water necessary to help crops thrive. The same process holds true for fertilizer estimation. Preserving resources in this manner is just one of the many positive qualities that UAVs inhibit.

In addition, crop layouts can be adjusted and modified based on the conditions in a given area. The utilization of drones can help farmers select the most optimal layout for each growing season. Growth trends are carefully monitored to provide the most advantageous methods for their agricultural operation.

Crop Production Soars
Through enhanced data collection practices and the availability of specially formulated sensors, a rise in crop productivity has emerged. Useful information can be gathered at high speeds, allowing changes to be implemented quickly and accurately. As a result, problems or issues can be detected early.

In fact, infrared wavelengths can be used to aide in the creation of vegetation index images. Commonly known as the normalized difference vegetation index, or NDVI, these images can be used to further understand plant health and pinpoint trends. Entire fields can be analyzed at one time, which is significant to cost reduction.

Crop Spraying Solution
Agricultural runoff from pesticides and fertilizers has long been a concern of both scientists and the general public. Many studies have been done on the effect of these growth aides in watershed areas. Chemical reduction is a direct effect of UAV use in crop spraying operations. Ground scans, precise scanning, and accurate application allows chemicals to be administered through a targeted method. The amount of chemical usage is drastically reduced, leaving virtually no overspray.

Real time adjustments are also a feature of UAVs. Outdated and haphazard crop-dusting practices are practically eliminated by using agricultural drones in crop dusting operations. UAVs can carry large quantities of liquid in their reservoirs, leading to a safer operation at a reduced cost. In conjunction with rapid responses to fungi or bacteria in crops this can also reduce the amount of necessary chemical applications. Thus, many farmers can limit the number and quantities of chemicals released into the environment as a result of crop preservation.

Microbial testing can be done to confirm the presence or absence of harmful organisms or substances in a variety of locations. Bio-traps can be used to obtain samples for testing to ensure the quality of water in a specific area.

Climate Change Interaction
Extreme weather is currently one of the biggest hurdles that farmers face on a routine basis. Flood, drought, and wind damage are the number one culprits of decreasing crop productivity. New strategies to increase efficiency and productivity are constantly being sought out by those invested in agricultural efforts. Drones have allowed many farmers to combat these issues while working toward environmental sustainability.

When faced with longer and more frequent droughts, irrigation becomes an essential concern. When equipped with special sensors, UAVs can identify parts of the fields that need more water. These areas can be addressed without using an abnormally large amount of water on the entire crop. This also allows farmers to adjust irrigation to the correct amount for each crop during its peak season. Drones have allowed sustainability to be more attainable than ever before.

Exploring Different Types of Drones
Contrary to popular belief, many different types of drones exist that can be used for specific agricultural purposes. The most basic drones are equipped with numerous sensors and cameras that may allow for crop viewing or livestock monitoring. Middle of the line options may include crop health sensors and imagery tools. While the most advanced UAVs can be equipped with interchangeable spray nozzles, display a more rugged design and increased durability, and contain larger liquid holding tanks for water or chemical application.

In Conclusion…
Drone technology is increasing at a rate never seen before. Agricultural experts are continuously developing methods for drones to aide in crop health, pollution reduction, and farming processes. As the availability of UAV and essential accessories develops into a widespread market, we will begin to see drastic changes in the way that farming operations are conducted.

Brittany Waddell is a contributing writer and media specialist for Microbial Insights. She often produces content for a variety of agricultural blogs.

Visiongain have produced a report entitled: Agricultural Drones & Robots Market Report 2017-2027, if you would like to read a free report overview please email sara.peerun@visiongain.com

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