precision agriculture

Above the Field with Drones in Precision Agriculture

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) recently offered some ambitious estimates about the influence that drones will have in various industries. Their research with respect to precision agriculture indicates that this area is one of the top two most promising markets for commercial drone operations, and that precision agriculture would comprise upwards of 90% of the total demand. AUVSI’s predictions mean that the economic impact of drones on precision agriculture is conceivably in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and it is easy to see how AUVSI got there. The average price of a drone is a fraction of the cost of a manned aircraft, such as a helicopter or crop duster, without the associated safety risks. Given the current price point for drones, this means that there are affordable options, regardless of the scale of the operation.

Use of Drones in Agriculture

Drones are adding a real-time view of the field to precision agriculture. An aerial view of farm fields helps producers observe, evaluate and respond to both inter and intra-field crop conditions. UAV mapping technology allows producers to accurately assess critical data about crop yield, terrain features or topography, along with the soil’s moisture levels, nitrogen levels, and organic matter content. With this important data, producers develop strategies to minimize detrimental conditions and optimize crop yields.

Many mistakenly believe that the use of drones in agriculture only applies to the growth and harvest season. In reality, there is opportunity to use a drone year round in farm fields. During spring, drones are useful for planning pre-planting and for soil mapping, while fall is a great time to use drones to plan drainage and irrigation repairs.

Drones also have many important applications for tracking livestock. New software that addresses the specific needs of livestock producers is on the rise and this technology is seeing an increase in adoption. Features such as thermal imaging and nighttime tracking allow for constant monitoring of livestock. In addition, the aerial footage drones allow producers to monitor the water and fence conditions on their property, along with the ability to review the percentage of brush coverage in a pasture.

No matter what the application, the aerial data drones provide to producers is incomparable. Integrating drone technology on the farm is an important step in creating efficiency and money savings.

Agricultural Drone Technology Uses

Agricultural drones are highly advanced tools that range in price from $1,500 to over $25,000, depending on the type of precision data they provide and the software they include. These specialized drones fit into two categories: fixed-wing and multi-rotor drones.

  • Fixed-wing drones are best for covering large acreage because they have a long-range flight capacity. These drones are made of highly durable foam, making them crash resistant.
  • Multi-rotor drones are preferable for less experienced operators, as they are easy and quick to set up. These drones do not require planning for takeoffs and landings since they operate vertically. Multi-rotor drones offer precision turning ability, making it easy to navigate fields.

Both drones are operated with a ground control device like a tablet or smartphone, with software that allows operators to easily set a path in a map view. No matter what type you chose, agricultural drones are considered to be commercial drones by the FAA and drone operators are required to have a remote pilot certificate. You can also hire a third party to operate the drone for you.

As unpredictable weather occurrences increase each year, producers require more information than ever before about their crops in order to get the highest yield possible. Using drones for precision agriculture has transformed the modern world of farming, allow producers to get a full picture of what is happening in the fields.

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