Precision Agricultural Drones Applications For Farmers
We all need food for survival and agriculture makes it possible, so we should be concerned about improving our agriculture system.
The Global population is growing and expected to reach 10 Billion by 2050. Also, the number of climatic disasters because of Global Warming has a huge impact on agricultural yield in recent years.
Today, we need technology more than ever to feed the world. When it comes to technology and agriculture, drones are playing a really important part in our agriculture system.
Drones came into this world for destruction and target killing machine for military purposes, but who thought of the day when these drones will save the lives of millions and provide us hope for better and brighter future.
Why Drones For Agriculture?
Now, a question that comes to mind is, how these drones could benefit in agriculture? Agriculture Drones are used to monitor crops health and livestock.
Advance sensors and digital imaging could help the farmers to get a live feed of their crops through a bird’s eye perspective and gather all the information they required to manage their farms.
Agricultural Drones could be used for many purposes such as land surveying, irrigation problem, pest infestation, soil variation, aerial seeding, and precision agriculture.
Many agricultural drones software are developed to gather the precise data of a field and identify the problem in a particular area so farmers could take the necessary steps to resolve that problem.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has encouraged the farmers to use drones for farming and livestock observation.
With the approval of drones, new rules and regulations are also created to minimize the incidents caused by drone such as crashing a drone into crops.
Proper training and guide is necessary for the farmers to fly these advanced machines and to benefit from them.
No doubt, drones are the future of farming but what about the present? Are farmers using drones today? According to the data collected from a survey, almost 33% of the farmers are using drones by themselves or by the third party whereas 31% are thinking of using drones in 2018.
So, if you are looking for agricultural drones for your farm to manage your yield better, this article is for you where we cover products, services, and drone applications in agriculture.
Irrigation Management With Drones:
Agriculture drones with thermal sensors could be used for irrigation management.
Thermal sensors could detect the parts of the field which are dry or exposed to excessive moisture and then farmers could control the amount of water they need to supply to the fields.
For irrigation management, the best drones for agriculture would be DJI Matrice 100 with Zenmuse XT thermal camera. DJI Matrice is a customizable and programmable commercial drone.
DJI Matrice 100 is built with dual battery compartments that could provide the flight time of 40 minutes and the video transmission range is up to 5KM. You could get DJI Matrice 100 and let it do his job for 40 minutes.
Zenmuse XT is integrated with a thermal imaging camera that is developed by FLIR. The sensitivity of the camera is 50mk and it provides 640 frames per 30 second.
Different drone applications in agriculture are available to control Zenmuse XT. DJI XT Pro and DJI GS Pro are for iOS environments, DJI Pilot is supported for all Android systems and DJI Go is available for both iOS and Android.
These apps are used to display a real-time thermal image of the fields, plan 2D and 3D flights, shuffle color palettes, intelligent flight modes and many more.
Drone Crop Spraying:
Crop Spraying Drones are used for crop dusting which includes spraying pesticides and fertilizers into the field from the air.
Traditional methods used for crop spraying are time-consuming, inefficient and many insects such as bees are harmed in the process, aerial spraying is five times faster as compared to traditional spraying.
The Cost-Effective Solution Of Crop Spraying is aerial spraying with a drone.
Drones software allows you to map a route for your drone and your drone will complete the flight route until the fuel is empty.
When the fuel is empty or the battery is low, the drone will return to home then you could refill the fuel and change the battery packs and your drone is ready to fly.
DJI Agras MG-1S and AG UAV including AG-6A and AG-8A are widely used for crop spraying. Many other commercial drone companies are working on producing fuel-efficient drones with advanced UAV sprayers while minimizing the cost value.
DJI Agras MG 1S is an agricultural drone of DJI which is specifically built for spraying.DJI Agras MG-1S is integrated with Radar Sensing System, A3 Flight controller and MG intelligent operational planning system which will allow you to plan and edit flight paths.
You could set the liquid amount of pesticides or fertilizers for per area and Agras MG will calculate the total parameter for you. MG 1S is a high-performance drone with intelligent flight battery of 12000mAh that could provide the flight time of more than 22 minutes without any load.
AG UAV is the most advanced spraying drones used in agriculture. They are equipped with Mission Planning Autopilot, GPS, and Flight Controller. AG UAV covers the land of 33 acres per hour, these are the best drones for agriculture results that could provide for now.
Currently, AG UAV Sprayers are available in 3 models:
- Fuel Capacity: 6 kg
- Spray flow: 0.5-1.1 liters per minute
- Flight Time (with load): 8-15 minutes
- Weight: 8 kg
- Fuel Capacity: 10 kg
- Spray flow: 0.8-1.8 liters per minute
- Flight Time (with load): 10-20 minutes
- Weight: 9.5 kg
- Fuel Capacity: 20 kg
- Sprayflow: 0.9-2.4 liters per minute
- Flight Time (with load): 15-30 minutes
- Weight: 14.2 kg
Crop Surveillance And Monitoring with Drones:
The most vast use of drones for agriculture in the field is crop surveying and monitoring crop health.
With agricultural drones, farmers could increase crop production and farms efficiency.
The hardest part for a farmer is monitoring the health of crops, if the land is in hundreds of acres it would take days to complete the survey and it’s still not very effective.
Agricultural drones with advanced sensors and digital imaging capabilities allow the farmers to see the satellite image of their fields and then examine which parts of the fields are exposed to pests, have poor irrigation or are ready to harvest.
Using NIR (near-infrared reflectance) and NDVI maps farmers could see what is invisible to the naked eye.
What Is NDVI?
NDVI stands for Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, it’s a color-coded graphical representation of plants.
Healthy plants reflect more near-infrared (NIR) and green as compared to weak and diseased plants. They also absorb more blue and red light. By comparing infrared and visible light, we could measure the health of crops.
NDVI ranges from -1 to +1, if NDVI is in negative then it’s highly likely because of water and if NDVI is close to +1 then the crop is healthy.
Parrot Bluegrass is an agriculture drone with 2 embedded cameras; video camera and multispectral camera Parrot Sequoia. The camera in the front is 14MP wide-angle camera that provides video streaming in HD. The internal memory of Parrot Bluegrass is 32GB to record the videos and photos of crops.
Parrot Sequoia is equipped with multispectral sensors that capture 4 spectral bands to analyze the health of your crops. Parrot Sequoia has 16MP RGB camera and internal storage of 64GB. Pix4Dag and AIRINOV FIRST are the software that is used to analyze the data gathered from Parrot Bluegrass. The flight time of Bluegrass is 25 minutes and the control range is up to 2KM.
SenseFly eBee SQ:
SenseFly is a commercial drone company that is controlled by Parrot Group. The eBee SQ is equipped with Parrot Sequoia that could capture 4 multispectral bands and RGB imagery. The eBee SQ can cover hundreds of acres in just one flight. The maximum flight range of eBee SQ is 40KM and it could fly for 55 minutes depending on the wind and flight speed. The software used for flight planning and controlling eBee SQ is eMotion Ag.
With eMotion Ag, you could create a flight path for your drone and your drone will follow the flight plan and complete the scan of every single inch of the field. The eMotion Ag is compatible with Farm Management Information System (FMIS) and connects with the online cloud for solutions, airspace data and weather updates.
Agrion Drone System:
Agrion Drone System consists of DJI Phantom 4 Pro with advanced features specifically built for the agricultural purpose. DJI and Parrot both are leading drone companies in the world that are stepping into commercial drones after consumer drones. Agrion is equipped with a NIR camera to monitor crops health. Flight monitoring and planning is done by using the FarmLens™ software.
FarmLens™ is a professional cloud-based data processing software that analyses farms and produces NDVI maps in different formats: Google Earth, GeoTIFF, and JPG.
PrecisionHawk Lancaster 5
Lancaster 5 is the 5th generation drone of PrecisionHawk with advanced data collection firmware and flight safety capabilities. With the flight time of 45 minutes, Lancaster 5 covers more than 300 acres of land per flight.
The Lancaster 5 drone carries the widest range of aerial sensors and 5-channel multispectral camera. Using InFlight software farmers can plan flight routes, collect optical imagery, swap smart batteries and have emergency controls.
Another great use of drones is that it could be used to monitor the health and movement of livestock.
Farmers could benefit a lot by monitoring livestock through drones. Drones have made the life of the farmer easy and time-saving. Drones could be used to find an injured or lost an animal, or the examine if the mother has delivered the healthy baby.
Thermal sensors and digital imaging capabilities allow these drones to keep track of these animals, thermal sensors detect the heat in animals.
Drones are currently used in Australia and Israel for livestock monitoring, and many other countries are thinking about the technology. Drones could follow the cattle anywhere and due to the low noise they won’t scare the animals, it’s like spying on animals for their better health.
For livestock monitoring, you’ll need a drone that is equipped with thermal sensors and a high definition camera. Vanguard and Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal will be best for livestock monitoring.
The Vanguard has a dual camera configuration that allows you to interchange the camera during flight. Optical Zoom Camera could provide 10x zoom which will reveal every minor detail of the area.
Thermal sensors integrated will help the farmers to detect the animals during day and night. The Vanguard could reach a maximum altitude of 4500 meters and has the maximum flight time of 94 minutes.
Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal:
Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal is a drone that could be used for agriculture, real estate, construction, and surveillance. Just like the Vanguard, Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal is also embedded with two camera and thermal sensors.
Front Camera captures 14-megapixel images and the rear camera contains an RGB sensor and Thermal Sensors. Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal is controlled with Skycontroller 2 and FreeFlight Thermal.
FreeFlight Thermal is an android app that is only compatible with Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal. FreeFlight Thermal could be used for streaming and recording of both the visual and thermal images.
However, the flight time of Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal is just 25 minutes which is comparatively less from the Vanguard.
Agriculture drones could be used for planting seeds by spraying them into the air. Aerial seeding is effective for large-scale plantation of crops and grasses, but few types of plants could be planted this way.
Large Wildfire could destroy thousands of trees in just a few moments, and to regenerate a new forest isn’t easy. With the help of drones, we could plant thousands of trees in just a single flight.
Aerial Seeding is the solution of sowing seeds into the areas where it is impossible to seed through the traditional methods, areas that are too high or rocky. It would save both time and effort.
Agriculture Drones Services:
If you are thinking about getting an agricultural drone to survey your field and monitor crops health, you could buy it online. But, you have to go through the initial cost of purchase and one needs proper drone education to fly and operate these drones.
FAA has approved the use of drones for agriculture purpose, but rules and regulation still applies. Drone operator needs a Remote Fly Certificate to fly a drone legally.
Either you could get drone education and certificate to use agriculture drone or you can hire with a third party for drone services. Agriculture drones service providers will scan your crop, analyze the data and provide you with reports.
Top agriculture drones services providers are:
Agribotix is known for agriculture drones technology and services for precision agriculture and maximizes the yield outcome. farmland is a cloud-based platform provided by Agribotix for field health report, Image Switching from RGB to NIR, Stand Count Report, and create flight paths.
By providing drones with multispectral imagery and data analysis services, YieldTech is improving the productivity of farms and agriculture business.
YieldTech drones are capable of generating NDVI maps, detail view of crops, advance scout reports and variable rate data.
Queensland Drones is a company situated in Australia and they provide services like aerial surveys, mapping, and photography in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, and ACT.
Drone Applications in Agriculture provided by Queensland Drones are crop health mapping, soil mapping, irrigation management, pest infestation, and soil variation.
TerraAerial have FAA certified pilots that will survey your field and analyze the collected data. TerraAerial drones are integrated with GIS (Geographical Information Systems) technology which is used for storing, displaying and checking the data.
ABJ Drones is an FAA and CAA approved corporate based in Cranbury, New Jersey with more than 2500 certified pilots. They deal with the most advanced drones including DJI, FLIR, and EcoFlow. ABJ Drones also offer the flying lesson to newbies and different organizations.
Agriculture Drones Software:
Various agriculture software is used to collect data from drones and monitor crop health. There are two types of software used in agriculture drones; firmware software that is integrated into drone and application software that is installed on computers, Android or iOS devices.
Firmware software is used to control your drone by synchronizing the speed and rotation of the motors. Application software like DJI GS Pro, DJI Flighthub, DroneDeploya and Pix4D are used for real-time imagery, advance flight modes, GPS positioning, etc.
Agriculture Drones Softwares are used for crop surveillance, livestock monitoring, thermal imagery, NDVI maps and plan flight paths for the drone. Data gathered from a drone is transmitted to the controlling device and then this software collects and processes the data.
Cloud-based software allows farmers to get online solutions and weather updates. Read our article about Top Agriculture Software for Mapping and Data Analysis to know more about agriculture drones software.
Agriculture Drone Sensors/Cameras:
Multispectral Drone Camera:
A multispectral camera is one that captures images with specific wavelengths, for example, the human eye is capable of detecting RGB colors but microwaves or ultraviolet light in invisible for a human eye. Multispectral cameras can detect both visible and invisible light; infrared and ultraviolet.
Agriculture drones with multispectral cameras could detect the difference between healthy and weak plants by calculating NDVI which is highly valuable for farmers. Similarly, multispectral cameras can detect pest infestation, monitor livestock, calculate soil fertility and moisture.
Things To Consider Before Using Agri Drones
Everything has its pros and cons, similarly, for now, there are some benefits and drawbacks to agriculture drones technology.
One of the biggest problems with agricultural drones is that they are expensive for farmers and flight time isn’t efficient but many multinational companies are working to make the technology advance and cheaper.
But, when you compare the initial cost with the benefits, it’s doesn't seem expensive as your investment get returns within the first year.
Initial Cost Of Purchase:
Agriculture drones are equipped with most advanced features like multispectral camera, thermal and imaging sensors, processing software that makes them quite costly. The price of agriculture drones could range from $5000 to $30,000, it all depends upon the features of the drone you selected.
Agriculture drones could cost the farmers a lot and many of the small farmers can’t afford it, but it is a one-time payment and your drone will pay off.
Another way to get through the initial cost of purchase is to get the agriculture drone services from a third party. Many organization are providing their services and the charges are negotiable.
Flight Time And Range:
The biggest challenge drone companies are facing is flight time and distance range, most of the drones fly for 20 minutes to 50 minutes and it's not enough for farmers who own thousands of acres.
Multi-Rotor Drones also known as quadcopters, have fewer flight times as compare to Fixed-Wing drones.
Fixed-Wing Drones is really a better option for crop surveillance and monitoring as they have the long range of flight but they can’t bear weights, for crop spraying you can’t use fixed-wing.
Technology is getting better every day and soon flight time and range will not be a problem.
The use of drones for commercial purposes such as agriculture is authorized by the FAA. Every farmer needs to follow the rules and regulations, violations could lead to imprisonment and heavy fines.
According to the FAA, the drone operator must acquire Remote Pilot Certificate to fly a drone legally and the altitude must be lower than 400 feet else it would be considered as the violation of rules.
Knowledge And Skill:
Agriculture Drones are different from consumer drones, consumer drones are easy to fly and newbies could easily operate them. But, one needs proper training and skills to fly Multispectral aerial Sensing agriculture drones and process the collected data through software.
The average farmer doesn’t know how to control these flying machines, they can’t benefit from drones unless they have some knowledge and skills about drones.
If a farmer is going to use agriculture drone for his farm, then he needs to get training and remote pilot certificate. It will take some time to learn the functions and features of agriculture drones, but after learning them they could improve their field production in less time.
We know that agriculture drones are used all over the world for crop production and livestock monitoring. With advanced sensors and digital imaging capabilities, they could solve many problems in a field like a pest infestation, poor irrigation, soil moisture, and fertility.
Agriculture drones make the job of a farmer easy and speed up the process. Drone technology is still improving and many companies are working to make them more efficient and cheap. We hope that these agriculture drones make our future a better place to live in.