Agricultural Drones – Using UAVs For Precision Farming

Modern agricultural techniques continue to evolve at a fast pace and perhaps one of the more surprising technologies to recently have emerged is that of drones for precision agriculture. Whether they are used for monitoring crops, soil, weeds, pest, pesticides, disease, or for prospecting for new developments, agricultural drones provide an unrivalled method of analysis and offer exceptional financial savings.

The benefits of drones in agriculture

By using drones for farming you can increase your yield and boost your productivity by monitoring your crops to a previously unattainable level of precision, without any physical destruction. Through the use of near infrared spectroscopy, camera drones can stop damage or loss of vegetation before it occurs.

Near infrared (NIR) cameras can simultaneously identify the levels of numerous constituents, such as cellulose and chlorophyll levels for example, that would traditionally be difficult to monitor and would require expensive and time consuming manual checks.

Until recently, satellite photography, aeroplanes, or helicopters were used, but the results lacked accuracy and the methods were prohibitively expensive. Using pre-positioned waypoints, drones can perform high resolution analysis quickly and cheaply and as such provide an excellent return on investment.

Many hectares can be covered in a single flight and due to their ability to fly at low altitudes, they can film underneath cloud cover, so can be used throughout the year whatever the state of the UK weather. Furthermore, due to their use of GPS, UAVs can return throughout the year to record from the exact same positions, so seasonal comparisons can be easily achieved.

Fixed wing vs rotary wing

Fixed and rotary wing drones will both perform well and each have their own advantages and limitations. Fixed wing UAVs have a more simple design and so are less likely to require maintenance and are also more aerodynamic, so can fly faster and for longer durations. Additionally, they can carry heavier payloads using less power. Takeoff and landing is more complicated however, and usually involves some form or runway, and once airborne, they have to remain in constant motion, so are not ideal for stationary inspections for instance.

Rotary wing drones employ vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) so can be used in more confined areas and are ideal for inspections, but are limited by having lower speeds and shorter flight times than fixed wing drones, so may require numerous flights to achieve the same results as a fixed wing aircraft.

UAV applications in agriculture throughout the year

Whether fixed wing or rotary, agricultural UAVs can be deployed year round to carry out invaluable tasks.

Examples of how they can be used throughout the seasons are:

Spring

Analysing soil and tile drainage

Summer

Monitoring growth, managing irrigation, and analysing gap and stand counts

Autumn

Monitoring stand consistency and dry down

Winter

Assessing performance of machinery and input analysis

For more information…

Intelligent precision farming techniques offer huge potential but can seem like a leap of faith to the uninitiated. If you would like to informally discuss with us how an agricultural drone could revolutionise the way you work, please email info@drone-air.com or call us on 01273 921991.

If you found this article informative, you might like to view our related articles:

Five Unusual Uses For Drones

Drone Air Experiments With Photogrammetry


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