Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Crop infestation by insects has increased, while climate change has also affected the yields. Hence, pesticides are needed to keep insects off and protect crops against harsh weather.
Previously, though, large-scale farmers have been using helicopters to do this, but the drone’s invention is changing things swiftly. This poses a major concern, will drones replace crop dusters?
Yes, drones will replace crop dusters because of their ability to access steep zones and hilly areas. Besides, they fly above the crops, so they won’t get stuck as tractors do in water-clogged farms. Drones’ ability to know the health of the soil, and water stress levels, among others, are some reasons causing farmers to embrace them. A major advantage of using drones in agriculture is that it helps to spray chemicals evenly.
In this article, I’ll comprehensively explain if drones will replace crop dusters, the advantages of using drones in agriculture, the problems drones solve in farming, and much more.
Will Drones Replace Crop Dusters?
With so many people being in crop dusting as a profession, many concerns have risen since the invention of drones. Will drones replace crop dusters? A quick answer is yes. Let me explain.
Over the years, before drones were invented, manned agricultural aviation was the best and fastest way known to spray pesticides on crops. Though it was the fastest, it was also considerably expensive.
On the contrary, drones are becoming cheaper and have numerous advantages (more on this later). Besides the high cost, crop dusters expose humans to harmful chemicals; hence farmers opt for safer tools like drones. Consequently, most farmers have stopped going for crop dusters and are now using drones.
So, why will drones replace crop dusters? Drones will take over because they have solved many challenges that farmers encounter every day when using crop dusters. Keep reading to learn more.
What Problems Have Drones Solved In Agriculture?
I know most people have lost jobs due to the introduction of drones in the agricultural sector; others lack training and hence cannot operate a drone professionally, while others cannot afford drones.
However, drones’ benefits in the agricultural industry outweigh the cons.
Besides, cheaper yet good-quality drones are being released annually. On the other hand, more and more people are learning how to operate drones. Hence, most people can now operate them successfully.
Nothing can stop drones from replacing crop dusters in the upcoming years. You better be ready. Here are some benefits you could miss if you don’t embrace this new technology.
Protects Farmers Against Harmful Pesticides:
Invented by Heng Sopheak, an IT expert working in a textile factory, agricultural drones were meant to eliminate the health risks caused by using farming chemicals.
The pesticides, which farmers used to kill insects invading their crops and protect the crops against destruction by harsh weather, were a great threat to the farmers’ health.
When Heng saw how farmers, especially large-scale farmers, struggled to care for their crops while still being concerned about their health, he built a drone to help spray plants.
Regardless of the farm’s size, farmers wouldn’t be exposed to harmful chemicals when spraying pesticides on their crops.
Eases Spraying Work:
Drones fly fast, so when they’re used to spraying crops, they finish the task quickly. Depending on the farm’s size, it can sometimes be 10 minutes to two hours or more.
So, a task that would have taken several days to finish when done by farmers manually takes a few hours. A hectare of land, for example, would only need 7 minutes to spray pesticides entirely!
Unlike humans, who cannot maintain consistency when spraying pesticides manually, drones spray the pesticides evenly.
Hence, each crop gets an equal measure of pesticides. Resultantly, there’s no pesticide wastage as about 20 percent of the pesticide that would have been lost is saved.
Precision And Efficiency:
One major advantage of drone use is that it organizes spraying pesticide tasks in that once it runs out of pesticides, it marks the last section to be sprayed. So, once you refill it with pesticides, you’ll continue from where you last sprayed.
Unlike tractors that had to find their way on the farm, sometimes even destroying crops, drones flew above them. Hence, they don’t destroy any crops when applying fertilizers or pesticides.
Large- and small-scale farmers sometimes find it difficult to survey their farms to check their crops’ health. Consequently, some crops get infected by insects and diseases and die without the farmer’s knowledge.
Using drones has solved this problem by collecting data about the health of the crops as it sprays pesticides.
Farmers can take immediate action against insects and crop diseases and save their crops, increasing yields.
Here’s another concern you might have: With some agricultural drones costing way too much for some small-scale farmers, will drones replace crop dusters in the future?
Here’s how to tell. Large-scale farmers must hire at least 10 to 50 more workers to tend and maintain the farm, spray pesticides, and do every other farm job as needed.
With a drone, you won’t hire anyone to do the spraying task for you because you’ll do it with the help of a drone. This means that you’ll need only a few workers, probably, less than 10 if you have a large farm and only one or none if you’re a small-scale farmer.
As a result, you’ll spend less on wages and increase your yields, making more profit from your farm products.
Research done by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows that corn farmers using drones in the U.S. see a $12 return on investment per acre.
On the other hand, wheat farmers see a $3 return on investment per acre, while soybeans farmers see a $2 return on investment for the exact size of a piece of land. This means the expenses are going down while the returns increase when farmers use drones in place of crop dusters.
On the other hand, small-scale farmers don’t need a pricey drone for their small farms. Many cheap drones can do the work effectively, they can also hire drone services instead of buying drones themselves.
Why Are More Farmers Replacing Crop Dusters With Drones?
Unlike in the recent past, when farmers feared using drones for lack of training or cost, more and more farmers are now switching to drones. What is causing this change? Let’s find out below.
When drones were first introduced, they were too expensive for an ordinary farmer to afford. Hence, only a handful could afford them.
At least, most of the farmers who could afford them were large-scale farmers with a good market for their products.
However, with more drone companies rising, drone costs have decreased. On the other hand, since each company wants to attract more customers, each is trying to make better but cheap drones. Hence, even cheap drones are now good quality, and more people can afford them.
The restrictions by the FAA not to use drones for pesticide applications have since been eliminated. So, farmers can now use drones to apply pesticides but ensure they follow all the set rules by the FAA.
However, you shouldn’t overlook that you must only use pesticides labeled “Conventional aerial application.”
Since the FAA allowed the use of drones in farming, countries such as Japan and South Korea are now using drones for spraying their crops. At least 40% and 30% of crop spraying in these countries use drones.
Manufacturing of Larger Drones:
Initially, agricultural drones featured tanks as small as 5 liters.
Today, drone tanks can carry up to 50 liters or more. Hence, it has now become so easy to spray large hectares of land within a short time. Hence, most farmers have since abandoned crop dusters and now use drones for spraying pesticides.
Drones have seen tremendous advancement because they can fly at higher speeds and have longer-lasting batteries, allowing farmers to spray more pesticides quickly.
The first drone, introduced in 1997, could only spray for about 4 minutes, and then the tank ran empty.
Today, you can spray for over 30 minutes based on the drone tank’s size. With the new advancement in drones, some drones have a 300-gallon spray tank. This can be an excellent drone for a large-scale farmer with about 15 to 60 acres of land.
Besides, agricultural drones have exceptional cameras that allow farmers to see better resolution while on the ground.
Every so often, a farmer may only want to spray a particular section of the farm as it could be the only section affected by a disease or pests. With a crop duster, that is entirely impossible, but drones make it possible and effortless.
So, for spot spraying, drones are the best. With drones, you avoid over-spraying some sections or crops that don’t need pesticides, which could cause some plants to wither and die.
Can Drones Be Used For Crop Dusting?
Yes, as we have seen, drones can be used for crop dusting. Some of the best drones to use for crop dusting include but are not limited to:
- The DJI Agras T20
- Agras T40
Let me take you through each of these drones if you’re looking for one for your spraying needs.
The DJI Agras T20:
If you’re a large-scale farmer looking for a crop duster drone, look no further. The DJI Agras T20 should be your go-to product. Here’s why. This drone features a large tank that can hold about 20 liters of pesticides. Hence, you can spray large farms without refilling the tank often.
Another critical thing about this drone is that the manufacturers designed it with the farmers in mind. This explains why the drone features 8 nozzles, which makes spraying pesticides easy and even.
Featuring several flight mode options, the DJI Agras T20 is user-friendly. In other words, farmers can use the flight patterns (pre-programmed) so one can specify which areas to spray and dust and which ones to leave out. In addition, the farmer can specify how much pesticide to use. Definitely, it’s economical and time-saving.
Not to mention that this drone also has a long battery life that helps the farmer to spray a large section before replacing it.
With these many privileges, you can already guess that this is not a cheap crop duster drone. Instead, it comes at a higher price compared to other drones. On the other hand, you might have to undergo some training to operate it.
- Holds up to 20 liters of pesticides
- Long battery life that allows extended usage of the drone
- There are several flight modes to use
- It’s more expensive than most other agricultural drones.
Any farmer looking for a reliable drone should consider the Agras T40. It sprays crops with precision, so no chemical goes to waste.
It can carry a 40 kg load of pesticides. Therefore, it is an excellent buy for large-scale farmers intending to save more. Just to be more precise, it takes about one hour to spray 21.3 hectares of a farm and only one hour to spread about 1.5 tons of fertilizer.
Besides crop dusting, you can use this drone for mapping and surveying. With Agras T40, you’ll finish a hectare of land in only a few minutes because it features a dual atomized spraying system that also enables even spraying of pesticides. In addition, it has binocular vision, DJI Terra, and active phased array radar.
- It can hold up to 40 kg of pesticides, hence great for large-scale farming.
- Reduces the size by about 70 percent when folded
- Sprays pesticides evenly
- It is also used for mapping and surveying
- It’s expensive due to its high payload capacity.
Though crop dusters have been in use for many years, in the near future, farmers might completely stop using them and turn to drones. This is because drones are way more economical, faster, precise in spraying pesticides, and convenient.
So, what, will drones replace crop dusters? Indeed, they’re likely to replace them, especially for smaller farms, mainly because farmers are seeing an increase in farm yields, unlike when they did after using crop dusters.