Precision agriculture: drones, a tool for your farm?

agricultural drones

In recent years, drones have become a very useful tool for monitoring crops, especially in large plots. But if this is not your case, what other benefits can you get from this technology? Is it worth investing in the purchase or rental of one of these devices?

In this article we will answer these and other questions so that you are aware of the news of one of the leading tools of precision agriculture: drones.

Drones, a fundamental tool of precision agriculture

The modernization of the field has made a great variety of tools available to farmers. With technology at the service of precision agriculture (drones, specialized software, geolocation, etc.), yields are improved and tasks and tasks are facilitated.

In the present case, the main task of drones is to monitor agricultural plots. To do this, the drone captures images that, after proper computer processing, are capable of providing accurate data on different aspects, such as:

  • The water stress of crops.
  • The nutritional deficiencies of plants.
  • The incidence in crops of pests, diseases and weeds.
  • The state of development and phenological of the plants.

This data can be carried on a pendrive to the on-board computer of the tractor. In this way, the farmer can apply doses of agrochemicals (such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides) much more adjusted to the needs of the crop and only where it is necessary.

This optimization in the use of agrochemicals represents an economic and time saving, as well as a benefit for the environment.

Agricultural drones allow farmers to access a wealth of data, which can be used to improve decision-making and increase farm profitability.

With the help of drones, data related to crops, livestock, soil quality, nutrient levels, weather effects and rainfall can be collected. With all the data, a very precise overview of the state of the crop is obtained, as it is based on detailed and very reliable data.

agricultural drones

Other uses of agricultural drones

Agricultural drones are not relegated to monitoring tasks. Different lines of research developed by technology centers and manufacturers in the sector are working on drones capable of assisting in other types of tasks: the application of phytosanitary products (pesticides and herbicides), fertilizers, and even harvesting.

1. Soil analysis

At any point in the growing cycle, agricultural drones can be used to obtain very useful data on the soil. With the 3D maps obtained by drones, it is possible to assess whether there are problems related to soil quality or nutrient management. With this information, you can better determine the most effective planting or sowing patterns in future campaigns. Constant monitoring also allows for close monitoring of water resources and nutrient management.

2. Sowing

Undertaking seeding work with drones is becoming possible through a new and still little widespread technology, which some companies are testing. Some manufacturers experiment with systems capable of firing seeds into previously prepared soil. Over time, this technology may be able to minimize the cost of seeding.

3. Fertilization and fumigation of crops

To obtain optimal yields, crops often require periodic fertilization and spraying. Traditionally these tasks were completed by hand, with the tractor or, in very large areas, even with the help of an airplane.

In fact, incorporating tanks in the drones to load the fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that they then apply according to the needs of the plot, is much safer and more profitable than the use of airplanes. It is possible to program the drone to act autonomously, executing specific routes at predetermined times.

drones

For example, if an outbreak of powdery mildew or other fungus is detected, the initial outbreak can be treated with drones. And given the speed at which they operate, they allow the problem to be diagnosed and contained before it spreads. In addition, drones allow fumigation in a timely manner, which results in savings for the farmer and a lower environmental impact.

4. Crop mapping and topography

One of the biggest advantages of using agricultural drone technology is how easy it is to monitor large-scale crops. Thanks to them it is possible to obtain images in real time and animations that show the progression of the crops.

These are reliable data that provide an excellent overview of the state of the crops on the plot. With this technology you can determine:

  • The phytosanitary state of the plants and the crop in general.
  • The distribution of the land according to the crop.
  • The phenology (stage of the development cycle) of the crop in real time.
  • Detailed GPS maps of the growing area.

5. Monitoring and management of irrigation

When applying irrigation, some problems can arise, especially the larger the plot. The drones equipped with thermal cameras can help detect problems in irrigation and determine those areas where there is an excess or deficit of moisture by infrared sensors capable of measuring the degree of water stress in plants.

From the information obtained by the drones, we will be able to regulate the irrigation so that it is more efficient and balanced, avoiding that in some areas water is wasted while in others not enough for the optimal development of the plants. In the same way, it will allow us to design drainage systems that evacuate excess rainwater that can damage our crops.

agricultural drones

In addition to these 5 uses, we can add a curiosity. In places where there is a significant incidence of bird attack on crops, drones are already being used to scare away those species of granivores and frugivores that deplete crops.

For this, drones for this purpose are designed with the appearance of raptors. Despite all these applications, agricultural drone technology still has several stumbling blocks to overcome. On the one hand, it is necessary to develop machines powerful enough to transport heavy loads (of the products to be applied or the harvested crops). On the other, ensure that drones have greater autonomy, that is, that they require fewer interruptions for refueling.

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