We have written numerous blog posts about the importance of embracing new technologies and how they can not only make your farm more profitable but also make your life a lot easier. Across rural areas an increasingly common sight is that of drones hovering and swooping over farmland like birds of prey. They have become a farmers new best friend, providing an all important critical eye in the sky.
If your farm produces or grows crops you will know all too well the struggles of weed and pest control. Many a blight has ruined entire harvests and too often weeds taking up crop growing space reduces both the quality and quantity of the crop. Yields suffer extensively as a result of both these problems and now farmers are fighting back with clever drone technology.
This is part of a trend that is sweeping the agricultural industry where by farmers are relying heavily on technology to precision farm.
Here’s how drones are saving the day.
The first thing a drone will do is map out the land, making sure it takes in every aspect of the farm acreage and creating a 3d map. This mapped land will be of vital importance a bit later. But initially the drone will be sweeping back and forth creating a very accurate 3d visual. This simple application in itself is of great use to a farmer. Being able to see the land from above gives a new perspective and potentially allows farmers to identify problem areas that they might have otherwise overlooked. This is especially important if the crop being grown provides a canopy or cover that would limit ordinary visual inspection.
Once all of the data has been fed through a mapping software the drone is able to further inspect the crops and ground below. The drone will then analyse the plants and vegetation and discern which are crops and which are weeds. It does this by first measuring patterns, understanding that crops tend to grow in a uniform way and any deviation from this is likely to warrant further inspection. Then it uses spectral information and correlates whether the colouring and shape is consistent with the fields crops. This initial analysis allows he drone to flag up problem areas on the 3d map it has already generated and allows the farmer to see where his crops are growing well and where weeds are encroaching on crop growing space. Drones can also look at the visual consistency of the crops and see where there is crop damage, infection or disease. Again, this is vital information to a farmer who may otherwise miss the details, allowing them to act quickly before the whole crop is infected.
That in itself may have already paced a farm drone on the top of your Christmas list. But the drone joy doesn’t stop there. The above-mentioned feats are child’s play to a drone and the technology is far more sophisticated than first meets the eye. Under scientific scrutiny on large farming expanses the drones were able to identify over 95% of the farming problems, and weeds stood little to no chance of avoiding drone detection.
Now comes the fun part. After all you have a robot, you want it to be able to terminate the problems for you. And sinister as that sounds, drones can do it. Albeit without guns and lasers that you may have just imagined as you read. Drones themselves can be equipped to spray pesticides, herbicides and weed killers which makes them formidable and eco-friendly. As has been documented pesticides and herbicides can have a tremendously damaging effect on long term soil quality and also effect crop yields for harvests to come. Gone are the days when a farmer would mass spray entire fields with these harmful chemicals and by using drones to spray the amount needed and required where it is useful means that the overall field quality will be maintained. And as if that wasn’t enough, it is considerably cheaper to spray a few tiny problem patches than commit to dousing entire fields.
An extremely clever collaboration has been born of this new drone utilisation. They are partnered with unmanned rovers (small ground reconnaissance vehicles) that traverse the fields at ground level and do the weeding for the drones. If the drone is not equipped with a spray function or if the farmer wants to ensure the root cause is eradicated, then these rovers also have the functionality to spray after themselves. Combining the two enables the farmer to focus on other farm management practices while his smart little robots do the hard graft for them.
Drones are always being improved, updated and enhanced to make farm life easier and more fruitful. Farmers are no longer relying on the traditional methods and those that are embracing the technological revolution are seeing significant profit improvements. Check out our article about a recent study highlighting just how important farm technology and smart farm management is to your end of year profits.
As always leave comments below and let us know if you use drones and how you use them? We love hearing new and exciting things farmers are using their drones for to improve their quality of life.