Precision Agriculture & Drones - The Key to A Sustainable Agriculture Model

< Back to blog listing

Precision Agriculture & Drones - The Key to A Sustainable Agriculture Model

Meet the present’s needs without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their own; This is the principle at the core of sustainable agriculture. How does precision agriculture help cultivate a model that supports this principle, and what is the role of drones?
The global agriculture-sourced food system is under tremendous pressure from an ever-growing populace and is extremely fragile. Highly reliant on the availability of resources like water, quality soil, fuel, fertilizers, etc. As we explored in this previous article, it is a highly resource-intensive industry that plays a large role in climate change and the depletion of natural resources. Uniquely it both causes environmental changes and is negatively impacted by the same changes.

Agriculture is a complex and fragile system that is influenced heavily by unpredictable factors like climate, resource availability, pest population and more. To bring stability to this system, the key idea would be to increase productivity while reducing efforts. Simply put, work smarter, not harder.

Precision Agriculture

The goal of Precision Agriculture is optimizing returns on inputs while preserving resources. This is done by leveraging collected data with modern technology, precision agriculture is not a recent farm management concept but has been around since GPS and GNSS. Tractors or equipment with GPS or GNSS capabilities enabled farmers to make maps that contain spatial data of their fields. This spatial data helps monitor crop health and status by measuring metrics like crop yield, terrain features, moisture levels, etc. It also introduced a level of automation onto the field where GPS-enabled tractors could automatically steer and cover the field efficiently.

In a nutshell, Precision Agriculture eliminates the guesswork out of Agriculture by integrating tech solutions to provide reliable, real-time data that enables farmers and agronomists to allocate resources accurately and efficiently. Farmers using precision agriculture have a reliable method to improve optimal land use, conservation of resources and productivity. Regardless of the field’s size, farmers can use the data gathered to manage large fields as though they are a group of smaller fields; this allows farmers to target and disperse resources precisely. Precision agriculture practises also enable a more efficient and effective cultivation method.

Precision Agriculture can help farmers and agronomists make smarter and more informed decisions regarding their fields by dispersing fertilizer only where necessary or recognizing disease spreading amongst crops, or even keeping tabs on pests’ population and using pesticides accordingly. Each of these seemingly small benefits addresses a larger issue at hand, for example; When nitrogen fertilizer is applied faster than the plants can use or absorb it, the bacteria in the soil convert it into nitrate that- pollutes water, releasing gasses that are hazardous to humans, destroys ozone in the ozone layer and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming. Similarly, improving crop health increases Food Security. Reducing pesticide use protects other species of both plants and animals from being affected. Efficient irrigation preserves natural resources of water. And more.

Precision Agriculture systems are centred on accurate and rich data; we can garner this data in a multitude of ways, the traditional way, of course, being terrestrial surveying. A more recent technology that farmers and agronomists are taking advantage of are drones.

The Role of Drones in Precision Agriculture

While precision agriculture is the method to bring forth a Sustainable Agriculture Model, Drones would be the tool of use. We can classify the application of drones in agriculture into two categories, data acquisition and operational. Drones used for Data acquisition could conduct surveys and mapping faster, more accurately, and offer more data- and farmers can use specialized spraying drones to carry out irrigation, crop dusting, fertilizer spreading and even speed planting.

Terrestrial surveying would take longer to produce the data and would be less feasible, which would increase the intervals between surveys- this would cause lost efficiency and productivity. On the other hand, Drones can cover large fields in just a few hours, enabling farmers to survey their field every day if needed. The data gathered by drones are more accurate, giving farmers and agronomists in-depth knowledge of their fields and enabling them to make informed decisions.

A Drone like senseFly’s eBee X  or the new and dedicatedly Agricultural Drones like the eBee Ag can deliver survey-grade accuracy on demand and can map your crops in minutes. Using these survey drones, you can fully assess your field and crops better than traditional surveying.

Drones can collect data from RGB, Thermal or Multispectral sensors; the data collected can help assess:

  • Fertility of crops
  • Soil type and Quality
  • Compaction 
  • Salinity Level
  • Water Harvesting Map
  • Albedo and Radiation Maps
  • Drainage Repair Map
  • Planting lines in Sloping Fields
  • Ploughing Efficiency
  • And more
The second class of drones is the spraying drones; they help you operationally on the field by spraying the area with seeds, water, fertilizer and even pesticides. Utilizing the data from surveys spraying drones can revolutionize your fieldwork by making it safer, smarter and faster. Agricultural spraying drones are designed to operate in adverse conditions and complicated environments without a loss in efficiency.

By pairing data with a spraying drone, you can achieve true precision. The drone can spray its payload accurately and rapidly. Farmers can spot-spray problem areas in particular instead of wasting time and money spraying the whole field. A significant benefit of crop-spraying drones is that it replaces the intensive labour work, and by extension, protects humans from being exposed to potentially hazardous chemicals. 

Human input is reduced to a low minimum. The only times it’s necessary is during maintenance, loading payloads or swapping batteries. Once you have your field data, the drone can autonomously fly over the field and carry out its responsibilities. 

A Drone like the DJI Agras T20 is at home in complicated environments, scaling otherwise difficult terrain for ground-based solutions. It can traverse up and down steep hills with ease, delivering a consistent and calculated spray to the crops requiring attention. Equipped with an Omnidirectional sensor, the drone is capable of automatically avoiding obstacles and continue spraying your farm safely and efficiently.

A robust cloud-based software like Aerodyne’s Agrimor can push efficiency and profitability significantly further. Agrimor is designed to make Precision Agriculture easier to put into effect by converting raw data into perceivable insights. 

What’s more is- Aerodyne is making precision agriculture more accessible to farms of any size regardless of big or small; Agrimor acts as a platform that bridges farms and drone service providers. Now farmers can have agricultural drone services on demand performed by experienced professionals without having to set apart a budget for procuring the technology and training themselves in it. This new model of agriculture drone services empowers farmers and citizens to leverage emerging technologies and boost their yields in a sustainable manner. 

The Rise of a Sustainable Model

Meet the needs of the current, using resources as efficiently as possible, preserving them for the next generation. Precision Agriculture offers a way to meet this goal by integrating information, automation and drones. Farmers and agronomists can remove any guesswork from the equation regarding farms and fields and make agriculture more efficient, profitable and sustainable.

The World Economic Forum report suggests that by 2030, precision agriculture could help produce 100-300 million tonnes of crops while reducing Carbon emissions by 2-20 mega tonnes. The report further says that farmers using precision agriculture could see costs drop by $40-100 billion, all the while reducing water usage by 50-180 billion cubic meters.

The combination of survey drones with spraying drones gives farmers an efficient way to both gather data and put that data to use, enabling them to cut costs while increasing yield and productivity. If you are keen to put our drones to the test, please reach out to us to see how we can help.

About the author

Niiveth Mani


Please fill the form below so we can help you make the right choice.
If you know exactly what you're looking for click here.
I agree to the occasional email sent by FEDS