The agriculture industry is an area where drones can be the most useful and farming businesses are welcoming the use of drones for crop health data and other applications. The only drawback is that the FAA are dragging their feet in opening up the airspace for drone users, as it can require flying beyond line of sight.
The drones are fitted with infrared sensors and a system called a normalized difference vegetable index (NDVI) and using the two systems together, can inspect the crops to assess the health of the harvest. The drone’s capability to examine vegetation leaves for disease from as high as 400 feet will help the farmer know what measures to take if the data shows there is some form of illness in the crop yield. It can be used for weed detection, all of which these inspections are typically done using people which are slow and time-consuming.
Soil Quality and Planting
Recently with advancements in technology of both drones and the cameras they can carry, soil quality has become an option to monitor. With the use of 3D mapping, an agriculture business can determine proper planting patterns before seeding. After planting, drone data can provide data for the laying of irrigation piping and nitrogen level management. A recent article by TechnologyReview.com stated that “drone-planting systems that achieve an uptake rate of 75 percent and decrease planting costs by 85 percent. These systems shoot pods with seeds and plant nutrients into the soil.”
Crop Spraying and Irrigations
Drones can be very helpful when it comes to inspecting how the farming activities are progressing. Monitoring the progress of crop spraying and ensuring they are administered properly. It can also be used to control irrigation sprays to make sure there are no blocked nozzles which would be accomplished by visiting each irrigation pivot but by using a drone not only do you save on vehicle costs but time as well.
For the diversified agriculture business, the drone presents a very efficient way of monitoring the movement of the animals, if any of the animals are ill and what quantities are where on the land. The ability to do this at night, equipped with an infrared camera with a drone is a significant advantage.
How Drones can Save Money
Drones can save a lot of money by using them in the crop spraying functions. Using drones will be a lot quicker, which saves time. With the drone being battery driven the drone will use no fuel, not to mention the personnel that is required to operate and maintain equipment. Crop spraying by airplane is expensive and also dangerous due to the low flying conditions and is another area where a drone can be advantageous.
Drones for Medical Purposes
Drones are being used more and more for delivering emergency medical supplies. Even in developed countries, drones can be used to provide emergency supplies. The speed of drone is far superior of that of a vehicle, and there is no need to worry about traffic. Helicopter deliveries are also quick, but the cost of running a helicopter is far higher than operating a drone. Imagine if you were 200 acres away working on your farm and need medical attention. You would be able to receive that quickly from someone at the main farm house vs. calling for emergency services.
Drones in Conservation
Drones are be being used more in conservation operations throughout the world. Not only for land operations such as monitoring animals but also illegal activities on your land. The drones can reach areas where it is difficult for humans to reach and often a lot of these places are only accessible by foot. Using a drone saves the landowner money as well being able to protect their land more efficiently.
Drones have many uses and can save lives, money and time. As time goes on, utilization will be more accepted and more frequent, but the FAA needs to get all the necessary regulations in place for them to commonly used and for all applications.