Agricultural Drones Are Changing Farming Forever


Drones have changed the way we conduct warfare, deliver mail, and take pictures of our world from above. Now, they’re changing how we farm too – and it’s about time. Agricultural drones are making it easier than ever to take high-resolution photos of crops in their natural environment, providing precise information that lets farmers tailor the care of their plants to their specific needs. The result? Higher yields and overall better health for the crops themselves, which can save farmers money in the long run.

  1. Using Drones to Monitor Crops
  2. Automating Fields With UAVs
  3. Ecpected Industry Growth
  4. Introducing Artificial Intelligence
  5. How Can We Encourage Faster Adoption?
  6. 02 Reasons Why Farmers are Slow to Adopt Drone Technology

Using Drones to Monitor Crops

In fact, agricultural drone company PrecisionHawk recently completed a survey of its users and found that more than half planned to purchase additional drones within six months of completing their first drone purchase. Drones as an emerging technology can make agricultural farming easy. Drones in agriculture can be used to increase farm crop yields and accurately monitor fields, while simultaneously decreasing time, labour and resources. This represent a new way of collecting field-level data, whenever and wherever needed the drone can be easily and quickly deployed. Drones are affordable, requiring a very modest capital investment when compared to most farm equipment. Operation is relatively simple and getting easier with every new generation. They are safe and reliable. Drones come in two acronyms which includes; Unmanned aerial vehicles and Unmanned aerial systems. Most drones fall under the categories of rotary or fixed wing. A rotary style drone is similar to a helicopter, while a fixed wing drone looks exactly like an airplane.

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Automating Fields With UAVs

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, in agriculture is also increasing. For example, a company called CropX uses drones to automate repetitive tasks in fields. This can lead to increased productivity and higher yields for farmers and businesses alike. The global population is dramatically increasing. The UN expects the world’s population to hit 8.5 billion by 2030, rising to 9.7 billion by 2050. In order to produce enough food for the 2050 population, the World Bank has forecast that we’ll need to produce 50 per cent more food. With climate change and a skills shortage limiting crop yields, farmers are turning to technology to increase efficiency.

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The hand milking of cows, for example, is already becoming rare. New technologies that automate milking can offer benefits for both farmer and animal. Lely, a company in the Netherlands has over 20,000 milking robots across the world, a system which allows cows to choose when they want to be milked, rather than when the farmer decides. The technology attaches and detaches itself, all while collecting data which can be fed back to the farmer. As well as improving efficiency and comfort for the animal, automated technology can work round the clock, to improve outputs and overcome a region’s skills shortage.  As well as producing more food, there is also a pressure on farmers to make processes greener – making the best use of water and cutting down on pesticides. This means that farming must focus on sustainably producing high quality food. Using robots and autonomous vehicles is just one way of doing this.

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Increasing Precision Agriculture


The way we manage our crops is constantly changing. The old days of spray and pray are long gone. Farmers now want to know exactly how much fertilizer or pesticide their fields need, without risking costly overspray and runoff. Thanks to aerial drones, farmers can get a complete visual read on their crop—from canopy-level photos down to individual plants—allowing them to better target areas for treatment and assess overall health of each plant. In an industry that’s desperate for efficiency, it’s no wonder agricultural drones are taking off. In unpredictable farming environments, autonomous navigation can be challenging. Greenhouses offer a simpler solution as they can be fitted with tracks and more carefully controlled. In outdoor farming, autonomous vehicles rely on planning and closed-loop control, as well as vision technologies to help the robot to respond to environmental stimuli. Similar to mobile robots in the factory, autonomous devices connect to a central control system to receive instructions and report on status. Driverless tractors change the role of the farmer from a driver to a fleet manager – an analyst that oversees robots. The new systems are also able to work 24/7 without tiring or stopping, which can increase efficiency.

Expected Industry Growth

The agricultural industry is expected to grow from $305 billion in 2016 to nearly $500 billion by 2025, according to Business Insider. And drones are only going to play a bigger role. As farmers get more familiar with using them and as they become more affordable, they’ll be able to do everything from monitor crop health and soil quality to spray pesticides on specific plants. In fact, one study found that drone use could increase crop yields by up to 20 percent—which could help feed an additional two billion people by 2050. According to a report published in PrecisionHawk’s State of Drone Industry report last year, agriculture is one of the fastest growing industries for drone technology; it’s estimated that farmers will spend around $700 million on commercial drone services in 2017 alone.

Introducing Artificial Intelligence

A rapidly-developing technology is expected to make a huge impact on farming. That’s right, artificial intelligence. Here’s how it works: First, farmers use computer vision to train an algorithm to recognize features in their fields, such as trees or plants. To learn more about Artificial intelligence click here.

How Can We Encourage Faster Adoption?

So what are some steps that government and industry can take to encourage faster adoption of UAVs? One possible avenue is low-interest loans. Just as farmers receive low-interest loans to purchase machinery, they could be offered cheap loans for investing in new technology like drones. Another way would be tax incentives; if farmers received a $500 credit on their taxes for every acre of farmland using UAVs to monitor fertilizer levels, it would not only help adoption but also grow conservation awareness.

2 Reasons Why Farmers are Slow to Adopt Drone Technology

For many farmers, one of the biggest barriers to adopting drone technology is cost. While it’s true that a majority of farmers don’t have access to drone technology, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) aren’t as expensive as you might think. In fact, today’s drones are much more affordable than their previous models. Other reasons for slow adoption include lack of expertise and long-term commitment to traditional methods. For example, many small farmers may not be able to hire someone with enough knowledge or skills to operate a drone. However, drone training courses are getting more advanced in order to fill these gaps in training.

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