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Drones: The Challenges Overcome

Drones have become extremely popular among smart agriculturalists in a very short space of time. The prospects they present in terms of increased profitability as well as reduced manpower make them an incredibly simple solution to some age-old farming problems. The rapid influx of drones in rural areas has caused no end of administrative problems, especially with aviation authorities and insurance companies. The great news is that by 2018 governments all over the world will be taking positive robust steps to allow for unmanned aircraft (drones) in an agricultural capacity.

This is welcomed everywhere of course, not least by farmers who have fallen foul of some very outdated aviation controls. It seems that the legislation is finally catching up with the technology and that only now really leaves farmers with one problem.

Now they have the greenlight they have to manage a lot of drone data. Something that can be confusing, complex or just plain tedious. The drones will be out as often as required collected all sorts of useful information. Mining the data from the fields so to speak and returning it in abundance. When the drones have returned from their reconnaissance missions the big question is what do farmers do with that data?

We have compiled a handy list of effective ways for you to manage all of that amazing drone data.

1)      Local spreadsheets. This option is for the keen eyed and sharp minded smart agriculturalist. Smart farm management can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it, if you’re good with crunching the numbers then a fantastic way of making use of the information is to input it into a spreadsheet and then measuring the results using your own variables. This is particularly useful if you have something you are monitoring over time because the data will be tracked very well using this method. Another great thing about spreadsheets is that they can easily be used to create graphs and other visual representations of the data. It really allows farmers to see the difference their active farm management tactics are having in the fields.

2)      Farming community apps. Every day we use apps to make our lives simpler, whether it is logging into Facebook on our phones or checking the football results on a scores app on our tablet, there are lots of handy apps that provide us with up to date information. That means that drones can integrate fully with agriculture apps, sometimes automatically updating information through inbuilt drone software. A lot of the apps make use of anonymous data sharing which allows farmers to look over a wide spectrum of data, narrowing down the results to location or crop types. Some apps share data openly and allow farmers to see what other specific farms are doing. This is particularly useful if a farmer knows that his next-door neighbour is achieving a higher yield and wants to find out how on earth they are doing it. Apps are a brilliant way of getting simple blocks of data on the move or getting the answer to a question in a hurry, they are often limited however by their developers. Which is where the next option comes into play.

3)      Big data stored on clouds. Research departments and universities make use of cloud based data dumps to get information to work on developing new technologies and agricultural practices. This is a great way of using drone data, as not only will you have access to other farm data on a large scale which will help you in the short term, but, with the development of better farm practices and insights from research companies it can help your farm in the long term. As well as helping the industry as a whole. Big data is so vital in making big decisions. Farmers that use it are easily taking the lead in the profits department. For example, when looking at all this lovely information you may realise that across the market there is a crop that could be very profitable because other farmers aren’t growing it. A little market research at that point and you could have the most lucrative crop for next harvest. Big cloud data could really help you get a step ahead of the rest of the farming competition.

There are many other ways that the data can be collated, some big tech companies even pay farms for their data or provide technology for free to collate the data. We actually recommend checking out the schemes and data apps in your local area and then trying to integrate as much of it as is useful into your daily farm management. If you find an app really good, let other farmers know about it! If it fails to meet your expectations, then make sure you flag it up as a disappointment. If you don’t find a method particularly useful for your individual farm, then move on to the next method. We think a great smart farm management practice is to use a combination of all 3 and finding a nice streamlined balance so that the data is recorded efficiently, the recording fits seamlessly with your day to day farm management and the results are readily available and easily analysed.

The one thing you definitely don’t want to do is miss out on getting ahead of your farm competition before it is a commonplace practice. These few bumper crop harvests could mean that when everyone else is playing catch up you are investing in expanding your farm capabilities so that you’re always one step ahead. So, get a few drones (they aren’t expensive, especially on return on investment ratio), read up on the legislation and get your farm analysed in areas you could never have done before. Record that data, look at other’s data. Make informed decisions and keep ahead of the opposition. For more information on just how incredible drones are and the practical ways that they can be used to significantly increase your profit take a look at our other drone blog articles.

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