Agrculture needs innovation and use of new technologies has not kept pace with need of the sector, lets take a look a how drones are transforming agriculture sector.Agriculturists have been using drones for various farming purposes for past few years but its development and application is still in the infancy stage.Initially, drones’ use in agriculture was limited to only taking aerial pictures of farms to study farming issues. Drones at the initial stage of its use proved costly because not only that the technology was new and its production was limited, handling of drones using a remote sensor needed a lot of training.
Farmers couldn’t fly drones and they had to hire an expert for that. In fact, in some of the countries, the application of drones is still confined to its basic use.
But things have changed a lot since then. Today, with the enhancement of hardware and software of drone technology, a drone can be flown with a smartphone. Mobile applications can pre-decide the route that a drone has to take before coming back to its original location.
So a farmer spots his field on Google map on his smartphone and then earmarked areas for aerial survey. He can then instruct the drone to perform that function.
Not only that drone takes the aerial pictures, it sends them to the mobile application which immediately analyses the pictures and identifies issues that plague the crops.
For Instance, if a crop suffers from insects, fungi or other pest attacks, the software can immediately analyse it from the photos and come out with a solution.
How Drones Are Transforming Agriculture Sector – Drones help maintain quality control of crops
This is how drones help maintain quality control of crops. They can fly as high or low as it is required and can take pictures with the help of multi-spectrum cameras. The high-resolutions images can reflect the problem that needs attention.
Since drones can fly at any height, ground obstacles like dense bushes or marshy lands cannot hamper the survey activities. Any manual survey takes a whole lot of time while drones can do that in a few minutes.
Drones can help plant seeds in fields much faster and in a most precise manner than any other technology. Forestry specific drones can optimise the available area for plantation after a thorough inspection.
The plantation rate is more than 700 to 800 plants an hour which is much faster than any human being. Any person can take at least a day or two for the similar work. Like surveying and plantation, Drones can spray water or fertilisers on plants up to the optimum level.
How Drones Are Transforming Agriculture Sector – Drone automation maximises its benefits
Some companies in developed countries have made efforts to integrate drone technology with other agriculture hardware tools with the help of software and sensors. This develops a synergy between various hardware and software components to maximise their combined benefits.
Drones that are used for spraying use sensor technology which helps drone understand the soil moisture and adjust the spraying activity accordingly. If the soil is dry, the drone will release more water and if it’s moist, it decreases the water outflow.
Most importantly, while spraying pesticides and fertilisers, drones can sense the requirement level which not only stops the wastage but also protects soil from overloading of chemicals.
Various categories of drones have been developed today which can perform specialised roles. For example, if one has to take the picture or collect the data of a large area, he will use fixed wing drone whereas, for detailed inspection work or survey hard-to-reach areas, one needs to use rotary blade drones. Similarly, drones are available in categories such as hybrid, data management, imaging software, data analysis to name a few.
Drones have also been categorised on the basis of their components such as controller system, propulsion systems, camera systems, the navigation system etc.
With the component and variety, their functions also vary. Like a field mapping drone is different from the one that can do crop scouting or crop spraying. Similarly, specialised drones have been manufactured for livestock and agriculture photography.
The use of drones also varies from one region to another depending on the specific agriculture condition, challenges and uses.
How Drones Are Transforming Agriculture Sector – Getting ready to solve complex agricultural challenges
Scientists are also trying to make diverse and innovative use of drones for various advanced agricultural solutions. For instance, Eijiro Miyako who is a researcher from Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology is working to develop an insect-sized drone which can carry out artificial pollination with the help of an adhesive substance.
The drone is equipped with artificial hair bristles which can transport pollen from a plant to another.
The research will help overcome new challenges that have come up due to dying populations of honeybees. They play a vital role in pollinating variety of fruits and vegetables and their decreasing population is a matter of concern for the agriculture sector.
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Netherlands-based CNH Industrial which is world’s largest capital goods companies with expertise in agricultural equipment has collaborated with DroneDeploy which makes the most popular mobile application compatible with drones, to produce an all-in-one unmanned aerial vehicular (UAV) system which can transform the farming forever.
At one hand startups and entrepreneurs with a focus on Agtech are exploring ways to develop drone-based farming models, while on the other hand, big companies like CNH’s are equally enthusiastic about drone technology. It shows that drone technology has a great potential to transform agricultural production in a most cost-effective manner.
In future, CNN Industrial may come out with a technology that develops a synergy between a drone and its driverless tractor and the two can work in tandem with each other.
The drone can identify the issue and directly communicate with agricultural tools or other agricultural equipment and bring them into action. So a farmer in future will have to learn to operate a smartphone or tablet app instead of farming tools.
Market valuation of Drone business expected to rise
A recent report, published by Zion Market Research on various types, segments, components, applications and regional use and variations, says that the agriculture drone market was valued at $673.79 million in 2015.
Considering the growing importance and use of drones in agriculture, the report further estimates that the market valuation will go up to $2978.69 by 2021 suggesting the compound annual growth rate of 28.11% from 2016 to 2021.
Some of the prominent market players in drone manufacturing are GoPro, Google, Boeing DJI, Trimble Navigation Ltd., DroneDeploy, AgEagle LLC, AeroVironment, Inc., Agribotix LLC, AutoCopter Corp., 3DR, HoneyComb Corp., Parrot SA and Yamaha Motor. The experts view stiff competition among leading market players which help in research and development of new models of drones and their innovative applications.
How Drones Are Transforming Agriculture Sector – Conclusion
Though IT and software professionals along with hardware scientists have developed a variety of drones that can perform specific functions for the agriculture sector, yet there is a huge scope for further innovation to make this technology affordable and simple from a farmers’ point of view. Agricultural scientists have acknowledged that the application of drone technology can produce unprecedented benefits to farming and food security initiatives.
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