The Use of Drones in Agriculture

Agriculture drones can be used to do anything from precision agriculture, to efficiently dispersing weed control or fertilizers, to optimizing field management. The results include reduced operation costs, improved crop quality, and increased yield rate.

The farming operations of today look quite different than even a few decades ago. New technology has allowed the growers of today to optimize each part of their operations — from field spraying to grow cycles and crop health. 

A big part of that transformation can be attributed to drones and other types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). With an agriculture drone, farmers get in-depth data analysis and mission planning as well as new tools capable of handling physical work.

Whether you’re an independent farmer or a leader of a larger organization (FPO), drone technology can help you beat your harvest goals and yield more crops with fewer resources.

Two of the main ways that the right UAV and payload can help are efficient crop spraying and field mapping

1. Spraying a field with a UAV

The drones and other types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) can help precisely deliver the following: 

  • Fertilizer
  • Herbicides
  • Fungicides
  • Insecticides
  • Pesticides
  • Seeds/Breeding

The efficient application of the above is a persistent challenge for any grower. If you spray too much concentrated in one place, you run up extra costs and potentially decrease the quality of your produce. Too low a concentration, however, and you leave your crops vulnerable to being overgrown with weeds, malnourished, or eaten by insects and other predators — potentially decreasing the yield rate.

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However, the right farming drones and spraying payloads can distribute chemicals evenly and efficiently. 

The results? Improved crop quality and a higher yield rate without intense manual labor. Carefully selected drones can be used on nearly any kind of crop, including rice, wheat, corn, citrus trees, cotton, and much more. 

In addition to covering more land at a lower price, drone spraying can offer major environmental benefits. Drones can more efficiently distribute pesticides using very less water so that you use less for the same overall effect. UAV seeding can also help maximize the efficient use of your land. With climate change and development expected to eat into the total amount of land globally available for farming, effective land use will be key to maintaining successful results in the years ahead. 

2. Using drones to gather data for precision agriculture

Smart spraying and seeding aren’t the only ways to increase overall agricultural efficiency, cut costs, or increase yields. Drones can also be used to map out an area and create new insights — taking the guesswork out of much of the growing process. 

One of the keys to all of this is remote sensing technology, which picks up radiation on the ground and can track everything from physical characteristics to the amount of heat an area is generating. The best agriculture mapping drones take this concept further with what’s called multispectral imaging. This means that they can capture light sensors both visible and invisible within a set range.

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Two key types of maps that can be created with this kind of agricultural drone include:

  • RGB maps: A birds-eye view but even better, even a basic Red Green Blue (RGB) map can offer fresh information. These maps allow you to see exactly how much land you have to grow on to the centimeter and assist with crop monitoring over an extended period of time, helping you adjust from season to season.
  • NDVI maps: Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) takes the insights of an RGB map one step further. The map shows the amount of infrared light reflected in an area, which is an indicator of malnourishment and drought. According to Go Intelligence, this kind of data collection can be used to spot problem crops as much as two weeks before physical signs emerge, making it an invaluable tool for farmers trying to accurately predict their yield rate.