This past holiday, there was a lot of buzzing to be heard, and it wasn’t coming from new colonies of bees. It was coming from all of the drones that were found under the Christmas tree. Clearly, those drones didn’t stay under that tree for long as drone pilots of all ages launched their unmanned aircraft system to see what it could to.
Drones have become such a popular device that the FAA stepped in to make sure things don’t get out of hand. Now every drone owner needs to register their craft before they can get it up in the sky. Many farmers have already discovered the benefits of using drones. In fact, drones could soon become a piece of farm equipment as important as the tractor and combine. Here’s how the typical farm could put a drone to use.
Evaluate Fields Quicker
Before drones, the only way to evaluate a field on a farm was to walk the rows. Driving a tractor can always get you where you need to be, but you’ll still have to occasionally climb down to check out what’s going on. This means that field evaluation can become a time consuming process — at least it was before drones. Today, drones equipped with the right cameras and sensors can make a fast sweep of acres of farmland. What once took half a day can now be completed in an hour.
Provide Data for Rapid Response to Crop Health
Providing a rapid response for plants in danger is vital to maintaining crops. Farm drones can be equipped with sensors that are specifically designed to collect all kinds of information about plant health. A recent test program in Uganda utilized drones to detect plant stress ten days before that stress became visible to the farmer’s eye. Infrared sensors can also deliver ongoing reports about crop heights and other growth factors.
The information that a drone collects can create a satellite map of the fields. This is a perfect way for a farmer to spot check his crops throughout the growing season. It’s a productive way to cut back on fertilizer cost. Why fertilize a field that doesn’t need it? This kind of rapid response to plant stress can generate more productive yields.
Improve Water Usage
Drones can be equipped with thermal cameras that can pick out changes in soil temperatures. They’ll be able to spot those dry patches versus the sufficiently watered areas a lot quicker than a foot tour. Using this information will help farmers better target their water use. This is an important issue during times of drought when water supplies are not only at premium but also very expense.
As a side benefit, the drone information that is used to improve water efficiency can also have an impact on fertilizer run off. That will help decrease the likelihood of creating dead zones in the surrounding rivers and creeks.
The types of drones that are used by farmers are not the kind of equipment you would pick up in a toy store. The drones farmers use can be expensive items. However, the benefits of providing fast information that can save crops and improve efficiency can provide a solid return on the investment.