Potential of Drones in Making Agricultural Simpler and More Efficient

Many innovative agricultural drone models have flight planning software, which allows the user to have a vigilant watch on the area. Then, the software makes a robotic flight path and, in some cases, even prepares the camera shots.

Agriculture has always been one of the primary economic drivers of the world. It is even more important for emerging economies, such as India, where it employs over 40% of the total population. Moreover, with scientific advancements, drones have come into the mainstream, helping the agrarian community overcome the challenges associated with human labor. 

Drones allow for precision agriculture, a science that focuses on improving production, efficiency, and profit, by employing advanced technology. The procedure of using a drone to map or survey crops is relatively straightforward. During the flight of the drone, it takes pictures automatically, using onboard sensors and the built-in camera, and uses GPS to govern when to take each shot. 

Hence, with governments legalizing the usage of UAVs by civilians, the agricultural drone market size will continue to grow. For instance, in 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the Yamaha RMAX, weighing over 55 pounds, to transport tanks of fertilizers and pesticides, to spray crops. Drones are proficient in spraying crops with far more meticulousness than a tractor. This helps reduce costs and probable pesticide exposure for human laborers.

What Are Advantages of Agricultural Drones?

•    The drone photogrammetry procedure helps farmers with accurate mapping, known as orthomosaics. With drone mapping software, the images taken can be put together to get a geographical map of the countryside. Different types of cameras can be installed, allowing farmers to gain access to different kinds of data.

•    The reduced time taken by UAVs to complete tasks is one of the most important factors making them popular. They are more efficient than manned aircraft for mapping, observation, and crop spraying. They are also used to plant seeds and spray water, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.

•    Drone mapping provides farmers with crop data, thus keeping them aware of irrigation issues, plant disease, and soil conditions. All these things need to be considered by farmers to meet the rising demand for crops.

Why Drone Technology Has Gained Acknowledgement?

Drones have received widespread acknowledgment in the agriculture industry because of the diversity of their application. They don't just augment the overall farm productivity but also help achieve effective livestock monitoring. For instance, drone analytics integrated with AI can help keep a track of the members of the herd, on the basis of their hide patterns; ascertain the health of the animals by studying their behavior, and knowing when the rudiments/poultry animals need to be fed, milked, sheered, inseminated, slaughtered, and vaccinated.

A Constantly Evolving Technology

UAVs for farmers are available in three variants: fixed-wing, single-rotor, and multi-rotor. While fixed-wing variants have been long operational in the military sector, they pose challenges for farmers because they require a proper runway. On the other hand, multi- and single-rotor variants have no such requirement, which allows them to take-off and land almost anywhere, just like a helicopter. This offers significant mobility advantages for farmers, who can launch them from the terrace of their house or even right from the agricultural field.

Similarly, the advancements in drone analytics software, especially versions that enable BVLOS operations, allow farmers to monitor vast tracts of land remotely. Moreover, with mobile phones venturing beyond their initial purpose of allowing people to talk to each other to becoming an interface between humans and machines, drones can now be controlled and the images and videos analyzed via mobile apps easily available on the Android and iOS stores.

Developing Countries Embracing Drone Technology

Agricultural drones have proved a boon for major agrarian countries, such as China and India. Nearly half the latter’s population is dependent on a farm-based income, but most of the agriculturists are small cultivators with low yields. Recently, the country launched 100 agricultural drones to somewhat ease the burden of farmers. This shows that developing countries are embracing technological advancements in agriculture, just like their developed counterparts.

The region’s need for such advanced farming technology is even more dire because the counties here are excessively populated. To make matters worse, people from rural areas are flocking to cities in huge numbers, which is leading to the expansion of urban areas and reduction of farmlands. “Together, India, China and Nigeria will account for 35% of the projected growth of the world’s urban population between 2018 and 2050.”, says the UN.

Moreover, even their total populations are over 1 billion, which has been putting immense pressure on farmlands to raise their yield. This has strengthened the need for advanced agricultural technologies, such as AI, UAVs, and drone analytics. Hence, with the government of these countries promoting the digitization of the sector, agritech startups are receiving heavy funding. 

Among the most-prominent initiatives involving drones for the agricultural sector in India, for instance, are the Maha AgriTech Project of the Maharashtra government’s Department of Agriculture and Thanos, an agritech startup supported by the Research and Innovation Circle of Hyderabad (RICH). As per an article in the Economic Times, in 2021, agritech startups based in India raised a collective $500 million in funding, majorly because of such strong government support.

Therefore, with developing countries continuing to reel under the shrinking area of farms and burgeoning population, their demand for drones and other advanced technologies for agriculture will surge.

SOURCE: P&S Intelligence

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