Believe it or not, there is already a significant number of farmers around the world who use satellite and aircraft remote sensing data to more effectively and efficiently manage their crops.
A system Known as “Precision crop management” enables farmers to use this information and specifically target areas of need within their fields and apply just the right amounts of chemicals when and where they are needed, saving both time and money and minimizing their impact on the environment.
The advantage of Drones
Drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) can take this technology a step further by implementing even more precise control using different sensors and algorithms, growers can hone in on specific problems.
Equipped with with three sensors-a high-resolution camera, a thermal camera used to monitor plant temperature and a hydration & laser scanner which measures individual plant height.
They can also be used to monitor soil moisture, determine germination rates, crop disease, insect damage and even monitor the health of cattle in feedlots.
Unlike planes, the drone can fly at low altitudes (less than 100 feet) and in most weather conditions as long it is not very windy, covers a pre-programmed pattern on autopilot and provides more accurate data in a cost-effective manner.
They can be controlled through autonomous or manual operations. During autonomous operations, farmers plot the course of the drone on computer software. This data is loaded into the drone, which then flies the route without the control of an operator. Manual operations require the pilot of the drone to fly the device from the ground using radio controls.
Drones Help increase Profits and Yields
With cost starting at the low end of the spectrum for UAV machines at $2,500 to $5,500 and More expensive systems that do more that could cost around $15,000. Most farmers agree that a Drone can be cost effective, but they lack “air time” and need to be more rugged so they are better able to withstand an agricultural environment.
Studies have shown that if UAVs are developed by 2025, it will be an $82 billion industry, with 80 percent of the benefits seen in agriculture.
This is more important now than ever, With the global population continuing to grow at a high pace, it is essential to optimize the use of water resources and to increase agricultural production with a need of having to feed 8 billion humans by 2030.
The longer the FAA continues to hold the commercialization up, the more revenue will be lost in the United States to foreign countries that will be moving much further ahead of us, in essence An entire industry is being held up.
The goal is to improve farmers profits and harvest yields while reducing the negative impacts of farming on the environment that come from over-application of chemicals.
This is one of main reasons why this technology should be made available sooner rather than later.