Drones and Precision Agriculture

While many industries are still exploring the way that they can harness the power of the UAV to boost efficiency, agriculture has already made headway into using drones to boost efficiency and move towards precision agriculture in an effort to gain the maximum output from their fields.

While farming is often thought of as relying heavily on tradition, it’s an area that has been remarkably quick to embrace the benefits that new technology has to offer with 18% of farmers now believed to be employing drones in some capacity.

A recent BBC News report looks at a farmer in Illinois who is already using drones to inspect his fields and save himself the time of carrying out a ground based visual inspection.  In fact, it takes things one step further by looking at the work being carried out by a joint venture between the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment and the USA’s Rajant Corporation to link drones together in a swarm to allow them to accomplish even more.   Of course, improved use of technology will always offer financial benefit to those organisations that develop it but in this case, the need for more efficient farming methods is very real as populations continue to increase while resources dwindle.

Drones, whether flying alone or in swarm formation, offer the ability for a farmer to quickly scan their fields using real time high resolution images.  They can then assess crop health, the need for pesticides or other chemical treatments and readiness for harvest, in the fraction of a time that it would take to walk the fields or travel using quad bikes. This inspection method is also non-invasive so no crops are damaged during the inspection process itself.

The benefits of drone technology are not limited to crop farms as fast boundary inspection can mean that livestock can be kept safely enclosed, missing animals can be quickly located and herd numbers can be monitored quickly, efficiently and without disturbing the animals.

DJI (China’s leading commercial drone company) have indeed recently announced an increase in their marketing spend to the farming community worldwide to raise awareness of how this technology can offer benefit.  While consumer markets may be seen to be plateauing, DJI certainly recognise that industrial and agricultural use holds the key to boosting their sales and they are developing their products accordingly.

  • Assess plant condition
  • Check for disease
  • Analyse weed presence
  • Assess drought or flood damage
  • Monitor yield and assess readiness for harvest
  • Pre planting field surveys