Unmanned aerial vehicles are going to be the most important invention of agriculture since the tractor. This is because drones hold much promise with regards to how farmers will be able to monitor their produce on a large scale as well as how harvesting of crops is going to be conducted.
Legality Of Using Drones In Agriculture
How Could Drones Be Used
Just because the FAA was slow coming out with drone guidelines and regulation that doesn’t mean we can’t imagine what the future is going to be like in the use of drones for farming. Drones can have infrared sensors attached to them to allow them to detect stress in plants which are often caused by at least one of three things: water shortage, pests, and nutritional deficiency.
The ability to detect plant stress could be the critical difference between a famine or a harvest surplus and this is because problems such as pests can be easily stopped but only they are detected early enough before they go out of control and destroy an entire harvest.
Farmers are going to be able to save a huge amount of time when it comes crop yield valuation. A lot of farmers would like to know the value of their yield but it takes a long time to walk through acres of farmlands so as to make a somewhat accurate estimation.
Drones will be able to quickly take images of large tracts of farmland in order to give farmers an accurate estimation of their produce so as to calculate expected revenues.
The past few years have seen the death of millions of bees in the US in phenomena known as colony collapse. This has led to fear in the scientific community that without bees to pollinate plants in large farms then there could widespread famine due to inadequate production.
Drones could be extremely useful in this regard as Harvard researchers are close to developing drones capable of pollinating large scale plantations should it ever become necessary to take nature into our own hands.
A goal that is considered to be of utmost importance in the drone community is that of precision agriculture which is the ability for a UAV to able to accurately locate and take action to a specific part of a plant.
This could allow farmers to be able to harvest their crops on a massive scale using drones and without having to hire too many laborers thus reducing labor costs and ensuring competitiveness.
Farmers in Kenwood.Ca are already using this technique on a small scale for the harvesting of grapes.
Drone Affordability For Farmers
A possible way that large expensive drones could be affordable to even the humblest of farmers is by using an ownership model like that of billionaire Warren buffet who owns a company called NetJets which basically allows people to co-own a plane so as to use it when necessary while allowing other people to use at other times.
Such an ownership model could allow farmers to come together to buy and share drones at very affordable prices. Companies looking to cash in on the drone business are stocking up on commercial drones to use them as a outsource service business.
An example of these companies is a DC-based corporation called Measure.aero who have developed some of the most advanced drones in the world in anticipation of a billion dollar drone boom industry.
Problems Still Being Worked On
There a few minor kinks that are to be resolved when it comes to the use of drones in farming. The biggest drawback is that cheaper drones are still pretty small in size given the size of most farms that produce large amounts of yield. The larger more capable drones, depending on the farm size, may be cost prohibitive.
A second problem is that a lot of drones do not have the necessary battery capacity needed to stay in the air for long enough to be able to engage in activities for more than 45 minutes which forces the pilot to have to constantly return it for recharging.