UAVs are creating a new agricultural revolution. The drones used in the agricultural market are estimated to be worth billions of dollars in the coming years. Gerard Sylvester, an information expert who is the editor of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Telecommunication Union's report on "Drones and Agriculture," says drones are expected to help agribusiness as a whole become more efficient as farmers try to adapt to climate change and other challenges.
When UAVs are equipped with cameras and other data acquisition equipment, they become "eyes in the sky". In some countries, drones are already regularly used to deliver fertilizer or pesticides. Farmers in the United States, including grape growers in California and New York, have been experimenting with drones to investigate "low-activity" areas where water is scarce or the soil cannot absorb it.
While agricultural UAVs are becoming infinitely more powerful, they are still not "perfect", for example, how to distinguish weeds from crops. It requires special perceptual abilities. Even so, agricultural UAVs may soon become a standard part of farm machinery. As one of best agriculture drone companies, TitanFlying introduces some examples of potential applications for agricultural UAVs:
1. Crop assessment
It takes a lot of time and manpower to monitor an entire crop area, while agricultural UAV can quickly scan and inspect plants that are slowly growing and may need remedial action.
Sensors can monitor the plants' absorption and reflection of specific wavelengths of light, creating a color-contrast image that visually reflects the problematic areas. The images generated from these data include NDVI(Normalized Differential Vegetation Index) maps, which are acquired by calculating the ratio of differences between near-infrared and visible light radiation, and are also obtained through satellite imagery and long-term monitoring by UAVs.
In this way, soil, crops, and forests can be distinguished, and sick plants can be found because damaged or dehydrated plants reflect light in different ways. The latest study shows that these spectral data can find crops that have been damaged by floating pesticides, as well as weeds growing in crops that are immune to herbicides.
2. Herd monitoring
Cattle ranchers use UAVs to track their animals on their vast farms and spot where fences need to be secured. When equipped with high-resolution thermal imaging and night cameras, UAVs can also help investigate animals that may be harassing and attacking herds. The UAVs have also been used to track human poachers in India's Kaziranga National Park.
3. Disease surveillance
Pathogens that may wilt plants and damage crops in other ways can evade detection without careful scrutiny.
4. Moisture monitoring
The absorption of water by the land is often uneven. Some parts may dry faster than others, or be missed by watering equipment.
Spectral and thermal imaging can reveal the dry points at which crops wilt. Imaging can also detect leaks in equipment and irrigation channels. What's more, farmers can assess the topography of their land using airborne laser-scanning technology or software that stitches thousands of high-quality aerial photos into a 3D map.
These maps can identify catchment areas, reveal the direction of water flow at the base of each tree in the orchard, and identify other land features that may affect crop health and soil erosion.
5. Mechanical pollinators
Bee robots may not actually do much for pollination, but UAVs may one day help real bees. A New York-based startup has developed pollen dumping drones to pollinate fruits such as almonds, cherries and apples.