Today’s farmers are exposed to an influx of technological advancements which claim to increase their yearly crop yields. It is often difficult for farmers to analyze the differences between each new technological advancement in order to decide which is best to meet their particular needs on the farm. One advancement making its way onto farms is unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones. Drones are small handheld aircrafts controlled by a remote and range in size, price, and complexity. A study conducted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International found that farms may eventually have an 80 percent share of the drone market.
Crop Health Analysis
According to an article on MIT Technology Review’s website, there are many influential ways drones are making their way into agriculture. Drone-driven analysis provides insight to farmers as to what condition the soil is in, when the best time would be to plant crops, and what level of maturity the plant is at. Additional analysis by drones include water deficiency examination and nitrogen levels of the soil. Drones allow soil and plant information to be processed much more quickly than normal. This is vital to the instantaneous society we live in today where people want the information they are searching for as soon as possible.
Some companies such as DroneSeed have future plans to offer aerial planting. Aerial planting cuts manual labor by humans completely out of the equation. The company’s website says some of their drones are even equipped to shoot nutrients into the soil as well as seed pods, so the seed is supplied with enough nutrients to support the plant to full maturity.
Drones completely revolutionize crop spraying. The light-weight, quickness of a drone allows the vehicle to swiftly scan crops and precisely apply the correct amount of liquid to a plant without overspraying. Not overspraying the plant keeps chemical costs down and also helps prevent the contamination of groundwater. I personally think this is the most important issue the use of drones withstands. The MIT article also states that aerial spraying is five times faster than traditional spraying.
The Texas Panhandle is known to face four seasons of weather in just one week’s time. Quick changing weather patterns can often make crop monitoring quite difficult. Time-series animations provided by drones educate farmers on the production of their crop as well as nutrient deficiencies in the soil. Sensors on drones are a vital component of these aerial vehicles being used in agriculture. Visual, thermal infrared, multispectral, LIDAR, and hyperspectral are all of the sensor types drones can be equipped with. Each sensor has its own unique and complex function. These sensors allow the drones to scan soil moisture, plant growth, and heat signature, which explains the amount of energy the crop emits.
All of these uses provide unique functions that can be implemented on farms. Some farmers and ranchers omit hiring a company for their drone services and just purchase their own less-complex version. This group of users usually operate their drones for more simple things such as making sure irrigation systems are working correctly and running wildlife such as wild hogs out of their crops. Another utilization of this group is mapping out fence and field perimeters.
The rapidness of health assessments provided by the research drones conducted on crops can essentially save a whole field from being taken over by disease, saving farmers and ranchers time while increasing their return on investment. Next time you are someone you know is in the process of deciding whether to integrate the use of drones on cropland, consider these possible uses of drones. Click here to read about them more in-depth.