Drones can help you achieve precision agriculture
Precision agriculture is about site specific responsiveness to farming so as to improve optimization of output production while preserving input resources.
Every farmer in the world today is working towards achieving the highest level of precision agriculture possible and drone technology has become the holy grail of achieving this objective.
How drones achieve precision agriculture
Agricultural UAVs today are designed with aerial sensor and software systems such as high-resolution cameras capable of spectral imaging to allow drones to analyze the colors of leaves in different areas of a farm so as to determine plant stress.
A healthy plant reflects approximately 12% of light at about 550Nm wavelength which is perceived to the human eye as the color green but unhealthy plants reflect light with a different signature and this subtle differences may not be very obvious to the human eye which is why drones offer a great early warning detection system to inform a farmer of failing plant health.
The reasons for plant color discoloration could vary widely but drones are up to the task of helping identify what the precise problem is by measuring average humidity to check for water deficiency, collecting soil samples to test for nutrients and PH levels as well as taking plant tissue for testing of potential diseases.
Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) sensor data, as well as human analysis of images captured by HD cameras, makes it very easy to identify not only parts of the farm that are infested with weeds but also exactly which types of weeds they are so that the right kind of herbicide is used to destroy them.
Artificial intelligence systems in a drone are built to allow it to connect with irrigation pivots that are distributed across large scale farms so that water can be turned on or off as is required depending on which areas need it most.
Drone AI can also detect weather conditions so as to chart optimal flight plans as well as self-monitor its critical systems like battery life and structural cracks.
Near Infrared sensors(NIR) can measure and compare plant heights in different parts of a farm to help identify if one area of a farm is not receiving enough irrigation water or fertilizer.
NIR sensor data can determine plant count so as to estimate crop yield and therefore expected revenues.
Very high-end Ag drones come equipped with LIDAR sensor technology which provides a way to create precise 3D models all physical objects in close proximity.
This tech works illuminating an intended target with a laser and then analyzing the reflected light to create accurate digital models.
Farmers use LIDAR technology to create precise 3D models of their farms.
Advantages of drone-assisted precision agriculture
The whole point of precision agriculture is to ensure that limited available resources are utilized as efficiently as possible so as to increase time and cost savings.
Nitrogen, water, and fertilizer are resources that cost farmers a lot of money in expenses and so being able to identify which parts of the farm need it most and which don’t is critical in terms of efficiency because it prevents wasteful allocation of resources.
The best drones for agriculture are equipped with thermal imaging capabilities to help identify hot spots by measuring heat levels of both plants and land so as to properly allocate extra water to these areas in order to cool them down and prevent drought.
Crop health imaging allows for the early detection of problems so as to prevent a few small crises from turning into full-blown disasters.
There are two main alternatives to using crop surveying drones, one is buying satellite imagery and two is hiring manned planes. Both these options are inferior to drones because satellite imagery is both expensive and provides poor quality resolution while manned planes are a recurrent expenditure.
Drones, on the other hand, involve a one-off purchase with very low maintenance costs and the return on investment that comes from buying a drone far outweighs the initial costs.
Drones offer great ease of use once you learn basic controls by using a tablet or a physical controller. A basic quadcopter controller has four main parts starting with the roll for tilting left or right, the pitch is for moving forward or backward, the yaw rotates the UAV and finally the throttle to increase or decrease rotor speed.