In the past few years, there has been a buzz surrounding the subject of drones, or more specifically, how they can be put to good use in agriculture to help farmers with crop surveillance.
Software exists to turn drone imagery into actionable information like this variable rate management zone map by Agribotix
These unmanned aircrafts use satellite tracking to move from point to point, working to collect photographs, square by square, that can then be put together to create a bigger picture of the land. This has already proven to be a real game-changer for farmers with large expanses of land, and particularly those who own varied and challenging terrain.
How will this really change things for farmers?
One of the biggest benefits for farmers is that the drones can be used to analyse their crops.
Outline Global have been surveying Western Cape vineyards with multispectral imagery, assisting wine farmers with variability within their vineyard blocks, maximizing performance on the estates. The aerial data collected by the drones shows which areas are thriving, helping farmers to make better-informed decisions about, for example, where to spray more fertiliser or pesticide.
You can pick up a decent drone for around £500, but the prices really start to climb when it comes to the more high tech models. Nevertheless, prices are steadily dropping, and when you compare this initial cost to the equipment required to traverse difficult terrain, not to mention any crop scouts that may have previously been drawn in to help, farming the old-fashioned way certainly doesn’t look very cost-effective.
Large expanses of land and difficult terrain can make the task of analysing crops a problematic, tiring and long-winded affair. By employing a drone to do all the hard work, farmers can sit back while their piece of kit flies on autopilot. With drones capable of flying up to 50mph, getting a quick and accurate snapshot of your land can take as little as ten minutes.
If there’s one thing that you can rely on these machines for, it’s precision. While photographs are incredibly helpful for those in agriculture, some drones also have the ability to use near-infrared to identify crop stress that can’t be detected by the naked eye.
As if that weren’t enough, they can even be used to scare off pests. Just take a look at this farmer from Suffolk who uses his drone to scare off pigeons!
Bianca De Bono, spokesperson for Isuzu UK commented: “With the help of drones, overcoming formidable terrain suddenly becomes enjoyable for farmers. A drone’s capability of flying right over cliff faces, rivers and mountains is unrivalled, and once airborne, collecting high resolution aerial data at the push of a button can ultimately help farmers make better business decisions”.