Drones in Agriculture: Delivering Sustainable Value

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Drone technology is positively impacting several industries in so many ways because of its far-reaching effects. That’s one of the reasons why the use of drones by businesses is increasing dramatically. According to the recent stats by Statista, it estimates that the drone market’s international commercial size will reach about 43 billion dollars by the year 2024.

The use of drones in the agriculture industry is an innovative way of farming, and it's undoubtedly the future. High-tech and modern drones help farmers enhance the farming process' efficiency in multiple ways, from precision crop monitoring and livestock counting to crop spraying, irrigation mapping, crop health analysis, farm mapping, and more.

Drone Use in Agriculture

Drones in agriculture are just one aspect of the move to include more precision farming methods and practices to complement traditional methods. Precision farming uses information technology to achieve optimum health, sustainability, and productivity for farms and the environment. This approach relies on farm data and insights delivered by different technological tools, with the drone being one. Aerial farm data collected allows farmers to reduce some risks associated with farming, enhance crop production, and maximize their yields.

The adoption of drones in the agriculture industry will continue to increase. The need for farming drones is becoming increasingly important because of the changing climate patterns and growing population.

The most common use cases of drones in the agriculture industry are as follows:

Counting and distinguishing livestock and monitoring them for health issues.
Scouting crops and farmlands for early detection of diseases and pests.
Spraying plant protection inputs such as pesticides, weedicides and fungicides.
Applying fertilizers to maximize yields.
Collecting farm data for informed decision making in counting plants, estimating crop yield, determining farm size and expansion plans, irrigation planning and analysis, weed management, insurance assessments and many more.
Assessing the health of crops at various intervals of the farming cycle.
Collecting data to analyze soil fertility, water and nutrient deficiencies.

Challenges to Overcome

As with any technology, the use of drones in agriculture has seen its fair share of challenges. Here are some challenges of using drones in agriculture:

Current agricultural drones mostly have a short flight time of between 10 to 30 minutes for spraying drones and up to an hour for camera-equipped drones. This limited flight time and range affects coverage per day and limits the cost-efficiencies that drones can achieve. Drones with better flight time and flight range that are cost-effective will significantly help.

Technical resource is required to analyze and interpret drone data into meaningful farm actions. This adds an extra layer of cost for farmers who are typically not trained to process and analyze such drone data.
Even though the cost of agricultural drones has seen some reduction over the years, investment in agricultural drones is still expensive for many farmers.

Spraying drones in some farming regions face terrain challenges, and intercropping practices in certain farming regions make their deployment less effective. This is mainly a limitation for drones not equipped with targeted spraying technologies, a solution that is still evolving.
Because agricultural spraying drones carry dangerous substances, there are usually significant regulatory issues in many countries before issuing a permit to operate one.

Drone technology keeps improving every day. Stakeholders and manufacturers are constantly innovating to address these challenges. While the search for improvement continues, it is clear that the current state of agricultural drone technology offers a wealth of benefits that significantly outweigh the known challenges. Now, let’s look at some of the current benefits of drone technology in agriculture.

Benefits of Drones in Agriculture

Drones are contributing to improved efficiency, significant cost savings and more profitability. The ability to analyze and collect real-time data brings tangible outcomes such as improved management decisions, use of fewer resources to control herbicides and weeds, and overall better crop yield.

Improved Productivity

One of the exciting and promising advantages of using drones in agriculture is that it provides better farm insights, cost-efficient, and contributes to increased farm yields. Drones provide more reliable and consistent data compared to traditional methods.

Drones provide the farmers with a faster and easier way to scout large tracts of farms within minutes. Multispectral crop analysis can help indicate underperforming areas and show the crop development of the whole farm. This way, farmers can pinpoint the exact problem areas of their farm and take timely actions to solve existing crop problems.

Better Response to Emergencies & Climate Change

Disease and pest outbreak on farms can lead to massive farm losses. In such situations, speed and time of response are vital to avert complete farm destruction. Drones deliver efficiencies and results multiple times faster than traditional farming methods to better manage the spread by detecting them early and controlling them more quickly.

For many farmers worldwide, extreme weather (because of climate change) is becoming a challenge. The list of obstacles to productivity, such as damage caused by storms, floods, droughts and many others, is continuously growing. With the help of modern sensors, drones can help farmers identify the parts of their entire farms that need water and adequately plan their irrigation systems.

Reduced Pollution & Chemical Residue

The agricultural runoff from industrial plant protection chemicals and fertilizers is one of the most significant health concerns. Drones can deliver valuable data for farmers to identify troubled areas of the farm by monitoring the plant's health. They can also be equipped with functionality to scan the fields and spray precise volume of chemicals and fertilizer. This way, farmers won't need to spray the entire farms, reducing air pollution and plant chemical residue.

Final Word

The future of drone technology in agriculture is bright, and it's continuously evolving. We expect that the technology will become more simplified that farmers can assess their farms in real-time. Moreover, from improving efficiency to reduced production costs, the economic benefits of using drones in agriculture are clear.

Drones will undoubtedly evolve to meet the existing and upcoming challenges of the agriculture industry. They have already become an integral part of the industry and expected to positively impact the industry’s growth in the future.
Dronehub has the right level of drone expertise, products and solutions to help address your most critical farming concerns. Together, we can help you reap and sustain that value you yearn for on your farms.

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