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30 May 2016

5 benefits of UAV in agriculture

Canola field with farm structures on a background highlighted by a sunsetUAV have been in use in agriculture for a few years now, and more and more farms in countries such as Canada, Australia, Brazil, and Argentina are integrating UAV into their operations. According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), agriculture is expected to account for about 80% of all commercial UAV and is predicted to have an $80 billion economic impact within the next ten years.

Wikipedia describes precision agriculture as “a farming management concept based on observing, measuring, and responding to inter- and intra-field variability in crops”. Simply put, it means applying the right variables in the right place at the right time with precise control over the inputs and the resulting outputs. Unmanned aircraft is a method that allows for the quick analysis of multiple aspects of farming, which can farmers more control over their crops. Aerobotika offers services in precision agriculture to help farmers incorporate these techniques into their farm management practices.
Here are five benefits of using UAV in agriculture that we identified.

1. Crop Health Imaging
Viewing crops from the air can show patterns that uncover issues such as irrigation problems, infestations, and soil variation that cannot be easily seen at ground level. UAV can help farmers get a more detailed view of their crop using infra-red, thermal, multispectral, and NVDI sensors to assist with early detection of any health issues.  For example, near-infrared sensors can identify stress in plants up to 10 days before it can be perceived at eye level. They can also obtain data such as sunlight absorption rates and transpiration rates.

2. Integrated GIS Mapping
Farmland can be mapped to produce highly precise, georeferenced 2D maps and 3D models. The photographs can be used with a geographic information system (GIS) to provide more detailed analysis. As well, using UAV is a lot cheaper than satellite imagery and the photos are at a higher resolution.

3. Increased Yields
Farmers can identify issues earlier and quickly resolve them.   You can calculate the index that works best with your crop and generate specific classifications and prescriptions to better manage your field. You can optimize inputs such as fertilizers and improve on irrigation efficiency and water management. UAV can also be used to detect harvest readiness and even to track cattle. A number of farms that use UAV in their operations have reported average yield increases of around 10%.

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4. Time and Cost Savings
UAV can achieve results much more quickly than traditional methods while reducing the amount of labour. It is a cheaper alternative to crop imaging than with manned aircraft, which can cost around $1,000 per hour. UAV can help farmers know precisely where to apply pesticides and fertilizers when needed and assist with water and disease management. As well, smaller farms can become more competitive as their costs are lowered, especially from the early detection of health issues.

5. Ease of use
UAV can be used to survey crops on a more frequent basis. Autopilot, GPS functionality, and auto-return home features add to the ease of use. Farmers who would like to own and operate their own UAV can obtain training from a reputable ground school in a short timeframe and at a reasonable cost. Aerobotika can assist farmers who are looking to integrate UAV in their operations with training, and we also offer UAV agriculture-related contractor services.

Precision agriculture helps farmers to increase productivity and maximize yields with the use of technology. Integrating UAV into this management practice can further reduce crop inputs while improving outputs. Farmers can better strategize planting and crop rotation techniques, gain earlier insight on how crops are progressing, and minimize or prevent crop loss. Data collected via UAV can provide many details about crop health and variety that can be used to make cost-saving decisions.

Aerobotika has been involved in some of the research being done on the use of UAV in agriculture in British Columbia. Our research coincides with others that show UAV can be a powerful tool in agriculture. One indirect benefit we identified in our research is the ability to house data in a central GIS repository for analysis using a multitude of applications and programs. Aerobotika assists farmers with obtaining professional imagery, mapping, and crop analytics to help with their precision agriculture management practices. Give us a call at 1-800-579-1828 or email sales@aerobotika.com.


Sources (retrieved 5/5/2016):
Agricultural Drones
Drones Set to Take Off Over Farm Fields
Drones set to give global farming a makeover
Why 2015 is the year agriculture drones take off
The Economic Impact of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the United States