Drones are the future of agriculture

Drones are the future of agriculture

December 11, 2020 Off By Rob Prosser

Agriculture was the most traditional sector of the economy. Any innovations took root here slowly, technological cycles were too long. The development of today’s technologies will forever change our understanding of the agricultural sector. The most important technological phenomenon of our time has become the drones of agriculture.

Drones increase the efficiency of monitoring the condition of fields and crops. Today it is carried out using manned aircraft, satellites, and even simple field traversal with instrumentation. This takes a lot of time and resources. The main problem with this approach is data systematization: a very laborious and long-term process. Thanks to drones, more information can be collected and processed much faster, which translates into increased profitability and improved yields. Moving to the use of drones will save farmers from exhausting walks in the field with special measuring instruments, as well as help with collecting data on the state of crops at any time.

In addition, drones make it easier to apply other advanced technologies in agriculture.

Another – no less important – advantage of drones is their ability to make maps of fields, marking the territory. If you make the markings using aerial photography, the result will be much more accurate, and the amount of time spent will be reduced. The data obtained can be processed and used to create detailed electronic maps.

Agriculture can become a more profitable sector of the economy through the use of new technologies. Drones are even capable of compiling vegetation index maps. One of the main functions of drones is to collect data to create index images. This information reflects well the status of the crops and can help pinpoint exactly where the problem is. If territories are under threat due to floods or fires, the drones will promptly collect and provide information on which areas are at risk.

The construction of the drones is quite simple. In addition, special weather conditions are not required for their flights. The device moves exactly along the specified route, which allows maintaining high quality and productivity of work. Most drones are battery operated. Consequently, the devices do not pollute the environment with exhaust gases.

Soon, the Australian government may consider the widespread use of unmanned aerial vehicles in agriculture. According to experts, drones can be effectively used for irrigating the soil, photographing hard-to-reach areas and extinguishing fires. Experts suggest using drones to irrigate fields and ensure safety – UAVs will be able to make spot photography, and soon even eliminate small fires.

In many countries around the world, drones are already being used to control the quality of plants. In Russia, this is still a novelty, but the first companies have already appeared that offer services such as flying around the sown areas, analyzing, and drawing up specific recommendations for caring for plants.

The use of drones is especially convenient for large fields, crops of grain, corn, sunflower.

Drones have great potential in terms of optimizing agricultural production. Their main advantage is in simplifying access to other technologies that will allow them to grow more and spend less not only for large agricultural holdings but also for farmers.

The drone market for agriculture is actively developing. The company has already invested in many areas. 

How many drones and for what purpose do you already have? How did you make a decision to buy certain drones?

– BK: For monitoring crops, we purchased 1-2 drones per cluster (30,000 ha). It was necessary to identify local problems. Therefore, we settled on DJI quadcopters (Phantom 3, Phantom 4). The aircraft platform option was not considered. In this case, operator training is longer than on a copter. Plus, you need to take an extra person to fly. However, we have experience with the Skif UAV. It was used to monitor a large area. The data was quickly collected over a short period of time. Together with the insurance company, we assessed the damage from hail.

V.K : Now we have 6 drones in our arsenal. They were chosen according to the ratio of range/flight time, according to the quality of the resulting image. The main areas of use are field monitoring, cartography, field protection. We shoot thematic promo videos with their help.

A. Z .: Today we have three drones that we purchased for our technical experts. I would like to emphasize that the drone itself is just an aircraft. Equally (and perhaps more) important is the equipment that is installed. It costs several times more than the device itself. Therefore, for our purposes, we chose unmanned aerial vehicles that could meet our tasks: to carefully survey the fields, shoot with both a conventional camera and a spectral one, shoot at a low altitude with reference to selected points. This is necessary to determine the level of weediness, types of weeds, damage to plants. The battery charge should have been sufficient to survey the middle field. This is about 100 hectares. In accordance with these parameters, we were looking for aircraft.

What difficulties did you encounter while using? How long did it take to train employees to fly? Are there many wrecked drones?

BK: In most cases, user training was carried out independently. Controlling a quadcopter does not require a special skill level. Only 2-3 sorties are enough to get basic management skills. Most screws were damaged during use. But there is also a precedent for the explosion of a drone in flight due to damage to the battery.

V.K .: DJI Phantom 2 turned out to be quite difficult to use. We had 15 accidents. Three of them were fatal to the vehicles. DJI Inspire ½ made it easier. Difficulties were only at the start and when landing the drone. Our employees were able to quickly get the hang of managing the UAV. The main thing is to practice enough.

A. Z .: There are many difficulties. Learning is the easiest problem. All experts were trained and acquired the skills to operate the apparatus. Subsequently, the skill level improved rapidly. We were in constant contact with suppliers. Their instructors online helped our expert pilots in case of problems. Through the fault of the pilot, not a single aircraft was broken. One drone was damaged by a crow attack. But he is already in the ranks.

It is more difficult to process a huge amount of information. Special computers required. Array processing takes longer than we would like. The second big challenge is data interpretation. From the drone, we can only get pictures or vegetation indices of the NDVI. What to do next with them is a question. In advertisements or articles, you can find many different declarations: from determining the number of plants to types of weeds. But this is all from the area of ​​the desired. There are different models for using the obtained indices, but they are far from perfect. And while more scientific research. Things are changing rapidly.