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You heard that you could do great aerial video shooting using drones. That is correct, but there is more. Over the years, drones have been widely used in the agricultural sector.
The role of drones in crop monitoring has seen a remarkable evolution in the agricultural sector.
Hence, more and more farmers are using drones to solve the following problems in agriculture:
- Soil assessment
- Planting crops
- Crop monitoring
- Harvest planning
- Spraying crops
- Enhancing food security
- Crop damage assessment
This write-up covers the role of drones in the sector of agriculture. Whether you are an individual farmer or agronomist, there is something for you.
Table of contents
- Why Use Drones In Agriculture? The Role Of Drones In Crop Monitoring:
- What Kind of Drones Are Used in Agriculture?
- What Are the 4 Advantages of Using Drones on Farms?
- What Are the Cons of Drones in Agriculture?
- How Efficient Are Drones In Agriculture?
Why Use Drones In Agriculture? The Role Of Drones In Crop Monitoring:
Various types of drones have been used in the farming industry (more on this later) to monitor crop yields, determine the possible harvest and its quality, and assess any potential dangers surrounding the crops, among other things.
Countries such as south-east Asia that have embraced this technology to monitor their crops have reaped incredible results, saved time, and lowered the cost of farming.
Not to mention reducing the loss of crops, which could occur due to fires, and animal invasion, among other things. Below, we shall discuss how you can use drones for crop monitoring.
Assess the Soil:
If the soil is not good, everything goes wrong. For this reason, you need to assess the condition of the soil before the next planting season. Soil assessment includes several primary things. Namely;
- Soil temperature
- Soil moisture
- Ground erosion
- Dead soil sections
- Ground modifications and topography
Advanced drones have a data processing system that helps the farmer agronomist to monitor and assess the soil condition and health.
These drones also have a 3D mapping system, which helps you have a great view of the entire farm in three dimensions if you wish. You can have a great view of the whole farm in minutes.
The soil can be improved for better and higher yields through ground erosion. Other activities conducted during the soil assessment include topography, multi-spectral tomography, and thermal sensors.
One of the primary reasons you need an agricultural drone today is to plant crops because it is more economical to use than hiring people. Farming drones are designed in a way that they can successfully shoot seed pods.
Let us do a little math: How many laborers would you hire if you wanted to plant maize on 50 acres? Yeah, even 5 acres?
It would cost you way more than using a drone. Besides, no laborers would outsmart the drone in terms of speed! Therefore, regardless of the size of the land, drones are the best equipment for the task.
Undoubtedly, drone use can lower the planting cost by up to about 85 percent.
It does not end at planting; you must monitor and assess your crops until harvest. Besides, you need to evaluate the health of your cops if, indeed, you want to have a bountiful harvest.
So, like humans, the earlier you deal with a health problem, the better it is. You may save a life just by seeking medical attention early enough.
It is the same with plants. If you detect an issue with the crop and deal with it soon enough, you are likely to save the entire batch.
So, what happens?
Drones specifically designed for crop monitoring feature a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, abbreviated as NDVI. This system shows different colors to indicate the health of the crop.
Therefore, based on the leaf color, you can tell if the crop is dead, stressed, or healthy and take the right precautions as soon as possible.
Why use drones to monitor crops?
Unlike satellites which have found their way into many farms, drones can fly at a closer range and take clear photos and videos of the crops.
Resultantly, the farmer or agronomist can see the condition of the farm, including assessing if there are any insect infestations.
Satellites are great, too, but their cost is too high for the average or small-scale farmer. Even so, who does not want to cut down the farming cost even if they have all the money needed, you?
Not at all!
Therefore, as much as the most common drones used in the farming industry (fixed-wing and rotary-wing drones) are also highly priced, their cost is way lower than the cost of accessing the data on satellites.
Throughout the growing season, the drone collects information necessary for predicting the harvest season for the crop.
The agronomists, farmers, and agricultural engineers can effectively plan for the harvesting exercise. Besides, they can determine with accuracy the expected yields for better preparations.
Applying fertilizer and spraying pesticides, and planting needs many laborers, especially when the farm is large.
The time spent is also much. Hence, the cost of these services goes up. It is not necessary. With a drone, applying fertilizer and spraying pesticides should take a few minutes to several hours, based on the size of the farm.
Countries such as South Korea are already using agricultural drones for these activities. At least 30 percent of South Koreans have embraced these farming drones.
Some significant problems drones solve when applying fertilizer and pesticides are acute and chronic ailments associated with these chemicals.
You do not have to risk your health anymore while trying to save your plants and boost yields. Using drones such as the Agras T20 and P4 Multispectral could greatly help.
Another advantage is that drones can get to any height and spray effortlessly, unlike humans, who may struggle to spray some areas due to steepness.
The ability of drones to spray crops aerially enables them to spray a wide section concurrently, which would be impossible if done by humans.
Nonetheless, you should note that some countries prohibit the use of drone sprayers. Canada is such a country. In other countries, you might need to have a license to use a drone sprayer.
So, acquaint yourself with the sprayer drone regulations before the law catches up with you.
Is your farm near the forest? Do wild animals such as elephants and monkeys invade it while you sleep?
Are there wicked people who often come to your farm to steal the harvest that cost you an arm and a leg? Do not wait or worry any longer.
Consider buying a drone with a camera. Using a drone camera, you can continually monitor your farm’s activities. For example:
Crop Damage Assessment:
Without evidence of crop damage caused by fires, floods, and others, it would be impossible to make claims to any insurance. Using a drone, you can assess the damage and document it for evidence for submission to the right institutions.
The insurance cover or government institution needing evidence can use the videos or photos collected to estimate the damage.
Drones featuring advanced technology are used in such scenarios as they feature sensors represented as 3D Orthomosaics. Alternatively, 2D.
What Kind of Drones Are Used in Agriculture?
The most common drones used in the agricultural sector include:
- Fixed-wing drones
- Multi-copter drones
If you are looking for a spraying drone, it would be best to buy a multi-copter drone. Here’s why. They are not only cheaper than fixed-wing drones, but they are also excellent at spraying crops and applying fertilizer.
In addition, they are ideal for planting seeds. What’s more? You can use them for photogrammetry.
Though fixed-wing drones have a higher price tag, they can withstand harsh weather conditions. A fixed-wing drone would be helpful for all-year crop monitoring.
Talking of brands, the DJI has been manufacturing great agricultural drones. Not only are their products great for pesticide application, but also the application of fertilizers.
Some of the drones DJI has manufactured and that can be used for crop monitoring include:
- MG-1 – DJI
- The Agras T20
- Phantom 4 RTK
- P4 Multispectral
However, the most common among farmers and agronomists is the MG-1-DJI. Whether you are a small or large-scale farmer, the MG-1-DJI will be useful. Using this drone, you can apply fertilizer, plant seeds, or spray pesticides on 4,000 to 6,000 acres.
With the ability to carry up to 10 kg of pesticide or fertilizer, the DJI drones come highly recommended for all your crop planting and monitoring needs.
In only one hour, the drone delivers data it has captured on your farm, up to 10 acres and a minimum of 7 acres.
What Are the 4 Advantages of Using Drones on Farms?
The use of drones on farms has many benefits. However, there is always a bad side to every good thing. Here, we shall look at the good and bad of drones on farms.
Where you would need over 500 laborers to plant seeds and apply fertilizer and pesticide, you would need only one drone, for example, the MG-1-DJI, to complete the task in an hour or less.
Aside from cutting down on the number of laborers, drones are cheaper than assessing data from satellites. Therefore, using drones on farms is more affordable than hiring laborers and using other technologies for the same purpose.
Ease of Use:
As long as the farmer or agronomist knows how to use the drone to, for example, spray the crops, plant seeds, apply fertilizer, and assess the growth, drones simplify the farming process altogether.
Take, for example, steep zones that need the application of fertilizer; sometimes, farmers need help completing the job. With drones, no plant would be too high to reach, and no zones would be too steep to work on.
You can use your smartphone to select the drone’s route, then control it accordingly from a good and clear standpoint.
Drones give accurate data through photogrammetry and videos, which farmers can use to determine the next action. For example, they can use the data for interactive 3D models or maps.
To enhance accuracy, most drones feature RTK modules. These modules improve the accuracy of the centimeter-level positioning. Less accurate drones feature GPS systems and are used by pilots who want a global position.
Whether the drone features the RTK modules or the GPS, the information they collect is used by the third party since it is considered accurate or with minimal errors.
You do not need to buy many drones; one for planting seeds, spraying pesticides, and another for other tasks. Not necessary. One drone is just enough. However, another drone would be ideal, primarily because it is meant for farming.
This is vital because it could crash or have a technical problem that makes it dysfunctional. Your farm activities should continue gradually.
A spare drone should come in handy in such situations, therefore. So, have that in mind.
Oh, did you also know that the same drones used on farms could also be used for photography and video shooting when you have a major function at home or out to have fun?
What Are the Cons of Drones in Agriculture?
Soon after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) encouraged drones for crop monitoring and other farm activities, nearly every farmer bought a drone. Sadly, most farmers did not know how to operate drones. Hence, they crashed.
This led to the FAA’s retraction of the same rules to set the laws and regulations necessary for the safe use of drones on farms. This move, again, led to yet another con of farming drones.
Due to the misuse of agricultural drones, their use by inexperienced pilots, and many cases of drones crashing on farms, the FAA set farming drone use rules. So, to own a drone, the FAA requires you to do a particular test and pass to qualify to own a drone.
Moreover, you must possess a license to own a drone weighing more than 0.25 pounds.
Aside from the FAA restrictions, some countries forbid using drones, even on farms. Therefore, though the pros of agricultural drones are many, you might have to research to know if your country permits their use.
While drones are cheaper than hiring laborers and using satellites, their cost is still high. So, not all farmers can afford advanced farming drones. Besides, the price could go up based on the features you need in your drone.
Remember that having one drone is unsafe; at least have two to keep you at peace just in case one fails.
Though some advanced drones can withstand bad weather, their cost is high, and only large-scale or wealthy farmers can afford them. Less advanced drones that cannot withstand even strong winds are way cheaper.
Even so, even the most advanced drones may not be usable under severe weather conditions such as hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and dust storms.
The signals would be highly disrupted, and the drone might also crash.
How Efficient Are Drones In Agriculture?
The introduction of drones in agriculture has made farming efficient through:
- Increasing food production
- Advanced Technology
- Quality Evaluation
Let us discuss the three below.
Food Production Increment:
Before the coming of farming drones, farmers with huge farms had to walk to their farms to assess the crop’s growth. Considering that the farmer could only see some of the crops, it was difficult to evaluate effectively all the crops.
As a result, some crops could be infected by pests and diseases without the farmers’ knowledge. Eventually, the crops could die, leaving the farmer counting huge losses.
With the coming of drones, though, the story changes. Farmers can comfortably assess their crops at any range and at any time and determine the next action based on the condition of the crops, thereby saving their crops and increasing the yields.
Human eyes are limited because they cannot tell when there is water stress in the soil.
Drones, with advanced technology, can detect such conditions for farmers and agronomists to take suitable measures.
In addition, drones can help know when the crops need fertilizer and pesticides. Still, through the use of drones, it is easy to detect crop diseases early enough.
Drones feature sensors. This technology makes it possible and easy to collect multispectral images.
Farm owners can use the collected images to determine the crops’ quality. For example, they can check the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). It is efficient to determine the crop’s quality with such information as the NDVI.
The role of drones in crop monitoring is vast and cannot be overlooked. Not only do these drones lower food production costs, but they also ease the whole process of food production.
Also, farm owners can assess the soil before planting season to verify its suitability. Still, farmers can use one drone to plant seeds on large acres in a few minutes or hours, which would be too expensive if they hired laborers.
Thankfully, all you need is to control the drone, and the stress of managing a large number of laborers becomes a thing of the past.
Do you own a farming drone? What’s stopping you from owning one?