Of all the many industries that have benefited from advancements in drone technology, agriculture has to be one of the most notable. In many ways, drones have completely revolutionised the way farmers operate, allowing them to quickly and affordably map, monitor and manage huge areas of land from the air.
UAVs also play an important role in improving the efficiency of agricultural operations. By providing farmers with detailed data and key insights that can be used to inform critical decisions, drones help those in the agricultural business to maximise their output (and the quality thereof) while minimising inputs (like water and pesticides) and damage to the environment. Here are just a few of the benefits that UAVs have in the realm of precision agriculture, also known as “smart farming”.
FOUR BENEFITS OF DRONES FOR PRECISION AGRICULTURE
1.BETTER PLANNING AND PLANTING
Drones are capable of generating detailed 3D maps of fields that can be used to analyse soil quality, texture and moisture content, and detect erosion hazards – all factors that can impact the yield of a crop. This information is then used to better plan the layout of agricultural grounds and optimise planting and seeding rate, so that farmers ultimately enjoy a larger, healthier harvest.
2. IMPROVED CROP HEALTH MANAGEMENT
Whereas in the past, crop evaluation would have to be done manually, on foot or from a tractor, or via expensive satellite technology, drones now make it possible to assess the health of vegetation in a matter of minutes from the sky. Time-lapse drone photography, for example, can be used to monitor the growth and development of yields very precisely over several days or weeks, and drone-driven NDVI mapping, which uses specialised sensors, is extremely useful for analysing chlorophyll levels; detecting insects, pests and disease; identifying weeds; and measuring plant stress levels. Armed with this information, farmers are then well equipped to tackle challenges timeously and make necessary adjustments as and when they’re required to ensure increased production. It essentially means that growers can be much more responsive to the ever-changing needs of their crops.
3. RESOURCE-EFFICIENT SPRAYING
Another benefit of drones for precision agriculture pertains to the appropriate and efficient use of fertilisers. Using advanced sensing technology, UAVs can identify precisely where additional nutrients are required, so that they can be applied only in the areas they’re most needed. Drones are also very effective sprayers themselves, and are adept at releasing just the right quantity of plant food at just the right time, successfully reducing the amount of fertilizer that’s released by up to 20%. This not only lowers agricultural costs but also prevents unnecessary damage to the environment.
4. REDUCED WATER WASTAGE
Water is a precious commodity that’s central to the success of all farming efforts, so it’s important that it’s used wisely. Enter drone thermography, which uses thermal sensors to generate an image that outlines moisture content across the land. With this data in hand, informed decisions can be made about irrigation processes to ensure that those sections of the farm that require more water get what they need and those parts that are already quite wet aren’t overwatered.
At the end of the day, drones help to make farming a much more exact science through the above benefits. At DC Geomatics we offer customised drone solutions and services to farmers and those in a range of other industries, and we’d be happy to discuss the various ways in which UAV technology could help streamline and improve your operations.