Drones in Agriculture – Precision Agriculture
The ever-evolving digitization is rapidly transforming our lives. Artificial intelligence (AI) driven innovations are contributing enormously across industries. It is a well-known fact that agriculture is one of the economy-boosting sectors that significantly dominates the export market. Moreover, the countries lacking technological assistance in agriculture suffer from low productivity due to underdeveloped methods without automation, leading to high labor and production costs.
Therefore, agriculture is witnessing a paradigm shift as drones have been widely regarded to automate various strenuous activities in agricultural operations. Today, drones powered by AI solutions provide human-like capabilities to perform activities like crop detection and crop health analysis, among several more. From achieving higher productivity to lowering operational costs, drone technology has gained a strong foothold and wide acceptance for its potential and contribution to the agricultural sector.
Uses of Drones in Agriculture
Drone technology has proven to be a phenomenal innovation with aerial monitoring capabilities and capturing high-precision pictures to gather accurate information. High-tech drone technology allows farmers to achieve efficiency with reduced costs which are crucial in agriculture. Activities like crop monitoring, planting and yielding, livestock management or crop spraying, and drones’ contribution in farming are on the rise. Some of the most noteworthy contributions include:
Aerial Crop monitoring
Drone technology has gained a strong foothold in the agricultural market due to its autonomous and aerial capabilities. As precision agriculture continues to evolve, farmers have opted for technical assistance in increasing productivity to meet the growing demands of food production. With the ability to cover up to 150 kilometers, drones have become an integral part of crop monitoring, including unfavorable climate conditions, crop health information, soil quality identification of the accurate area of the land with geo sensing technology. Drones provide high-resolution images and based on the data, and appropriate treatment actions can be taken beforehand, thereby saving time and costing on damaged crops.
Drones are integrated with AI techniques that are capable of producing insights from the data.The image data collected by drone provides farmers precise information on soil characteristics like nitrogen levels, moisture retention, temperature, and weather conditions, alongside the critical information about weeds and fungi growth around the vegetation. Such an approach allows farmers to be well-prepared and decide on the required fertilizers and appropriate use of man-management by providing more effort in the areas that are not productive or have inevitable disruptions.
Agricultural lands are spread across acres for farming, and it requires a larger workforce for seed planting tasks. Drone-based planting is a significantly new term in intelligent farming, but it gains momentum with certain companies willing to try out its potential. Essentially, the drones are pre-programmed with the task of seed planting along with the detailed information on the area of the land and the required amount of soil and natural fertilizer and herbicides for assisting in seed growth.
Drone Assisted Crop Grading and Sorting
Drones are powered by AI techniques and algorithms, which are phenomenal in automated detection and identification tasks. Such capabilities have become a boon for farmers when it comes to assisting in grading and sorting the crops. During harvest, drones can scan around the field area and pinpoint the regions where crop yield doesn’t meet the quality standards or is damaged. Therefore, damaged crops are not harvested, and the time required for sorting between the excellent quality crops and damaged ones is reduced significantly. Additionally, drones can monitor the field during daily farming inspections to ensure crop health. The crop longevity can be identified by monitoring the percentage of infections of the crop across the farming land.
Automated Crop Spraying
In agriculture, crop infections, insect attacks, and the growth of weeds and fungi are common factors. The challenge occurs when large acres of land need to be covered by manually inspecting and spraying fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. Using drones to spray over the crops across the farm is a safer and cost-effective solution. It is well-known that people engaged with the spraying of pesticides or herbicides end up having health complications and drones are the perfect replacement for performing such activities without any hassle. Besides, drones can move closer to a potential area for inspection. Therefore, spot spraying is possible with drones where only the specific spot requiring treatment is sprayed upon, thereby reducing environmental concerns to a certain extent.
The technical adoption has given rise to identifying crop traits for understanding the crop breeds being preferred under precision agriculture. Drones can be explicitly programmed to capture and record data on crop traits for improved cultivation. For instance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with spectral imaging can assess different traits from colors, plant area, and growth rates. The data acquired can be used for further analysis to understand accurately for treatment and crop performance.
Farming lands and forestation is interlinked as forest lands are close to the farming fields. Drones with inspection capabilities can monitor around regions to acquire information about trees, classify the types of trees available, and additional analysis such as tree health, unused farming land area, and farming land borders and drainage system. Furthermore, drones can be used for surveillance as the number of intruders and unauthorized loggers have been associated with illegal tree poaching activities in recent years.
Real-Time Livestock Monitoring and Management
Livestock is an essential part of agriculture. However, it is not easy to track livestock due to their tendency to wander to unexplored areas in the nearby lands. It is not easy for farmers to keep track of the livestock frequently or without extra staff for checking on the herd. Therefore, drones can monitor the livestock at all times, and advanced imaging can keep an eye out for livestock theft activities.
Existing Drone Solutions in Agriculture
In recent years, several drone technology providers have step foot into the world of agriculture. From crop health to farming land indices, including plant height detection, crop scouting, water, and soil analysis, drones are continually targeting a wide range of agricultural activities. The collected raw image data are further processed with the in-built AI algorithms for providing further interpretation for farm management.