4 Key Reasons to Use Drones in Agriculture

Who among us hasn’t noticed the rising cost of food?

Coffee, bread, and even bottled water are all becoming more expensive. What’s causing this financial crunch? Why are staples of consumer goods rising in price, and how can we stop this trend? 

While the answer is, of course, a complex one, the war in Ukraine and supply chain challenges are partially to blame. For instance, before the Russian invasion, Ukraine accounted for 10% of the world’s wheat production.

As the conflict continues, vast grain stores remain trapped in Ukraine, unavailable for export.  

And, while everyone feels the squeeze at the gas pump, supply chain shortages affect more than just our fuel prices.

Farmers everywhere are watching helplessly as profits shrink and problems mount.

Fertilizer, for example, is at near-record level prices. When fertilizer accounts for well over 30% of operating costs for many crops, like wheat and corn, it should come as no surprise when our favorite foods reflect those increases.

Even beyond these significant issues, a great contributor is climate change.

Greenhouse gasses, changes in ozone, and deforestation all negatively affect agriculture. By some estimates, the world has lost a third of its arable land in the last 40 years. Pollution and erosion contribute heavily to this loss.  

As the world’s population increases, feeding a growing planet becomes a major challenge.

The only solution then, is to improve efficiencies in agricultural methods. Drones are well suited for this task and are already significantly impacting the industry.

Let’s take a look at how drones in agriculture are improving yields, reducing waste, and changing the industry for the better.

Drones Improve Water Management

Water shortages are a worsening problem worldwide. As both climate change and population pressure take a greater hold on Earth, every continent except Antarctica is experiencing drought conditions.  

It’s also no secret that agriculture is a significant consumer of fresh water. In fact, up to 70% of all freshwater withdrawals are used for growing the food we eat. With so much of this precious resource dedicated to agriculture, it’s paramount to use it efficiently.

Here, drones are incredible tools to help you better manage your water usage.

From their aerial positions, UAVs identify leaks in irrigation systems you otherwise might not detect.

As a result, you’re able to stop water waste before it becomes a major problem. Without this aerial presence, spotting a leak from the ground would be nearly impossible, especially on large farms comprised of hundreds or thousands of acres.

Additionally, drones with multispectral or thermal cameras can point out areas of crops that need more or less water. Once the data is analyzed, you’re better able to tell which plants are getting too much or too little hydration.

Making these adjustments not only saves you huge amounts of water (and money), it also yields better harvests. 

Drones in Agriculture Improve Crop Health

Understanding the current state of your crops is vital to producing optimal crop yields. In a world that keeps getting hotter and drier, you need to identify problems as soon as possible. 

Drones carrying multispectral cameras can identify plant counts, the presence of diseased plants, and map out fields accurately.

The data collected from UAVs can also help you estimate the expected yield, given the current conditions of your crops. 

Unlike other platforms like satellites, drones can be flown over your field to collect this data whenever you choose.

From seed planting to harvest, drones provide the best way to keep an eye on the health of your fields. 

Soil Analysis with Drones

Traditional soil testing is a bit of a laborious process and a time-consuming task.

First, you need to collect samples of your soil before they can be analyzed. Once the samples are collected, they must be sent to a lab for testing.

In the meantime, you’re stuck waiting for results before making any necessary changes.  

On the other hand, drones can fly over your fields and determine the same information in real-time. You can process the data immediately after landing and quickly know important soil characteristics like nitrogen levels.  

Not only is this real-time soil analysis often a fraction of the cost of traditional soil testing, it provides a more accurate picture. Instead of just samples, every inch of your field can be analyzed with UAVs in a matter of minutes.

Crop Spraying Is More Precise with Drones

Using drones to spray pesticides over crops has been around for a several years. However, the industry has been a little slow to adopt the technology, primarily due to regulations surrounding crop spraying operations. 

But, as drone regulations relax, we’re seeing greater adoption in places like China, the United States, and the EU. There are several advantages to crop spraying with drones versus traditional methods. 

In many areas, people carrying sprayers mounted on backpacks remain the norm. This needlessly puts people in contact with dangerous chemicals. In contrast, a drone can spray without people in the area, making it much safer. 

Another advantage is increased efficiency. When crewed aircraft spray crops, they’re expensive and can’t guarantee an even spread of pesticides over crops.

On the other hand, drones can ensure uniform spray coverage. In some countries, drones in agriculture are already proving their worth.  

Japan was an early adopter of crop spraying drones, and currently reaps the benefits of its forward thinking. Since the 1990s, UAVs have helped farmers in the island nation improve efficiency and productivity. In fact, drones now handle 95% of all spraying operations in the country.

Japan is a model for the rest of the world for what is possible with crop spraying with drones in agriculture.

Bringing It Together

The market for drones in agriculture is big business – and growing.

From crop spraying to managing the health of plants, UAVs remain a crucial component of modern precision agriculture.

As population growth & climate change continues to present farmers with new challenges, look for drones to take off and meet those problems head-on.

So, which drone is right for you? And, how do you get started? Do you hire out or bring your drone program in-house?

At Consortiq, we help you find a better way with drones, from consultation and program implementation to actually doing the work for you.

Ready to learn more? Just complete the form below to schedule a risk-free consultation!

Picture of David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

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