UAVS / DRONES AND PRECISION AGRICULTURE
There are many possible uses for flying drones, and as we add capabilities, potential uses will grow dramatically.
We are limited in our thinking to what we see today, but flying drones can be built large enough to move people and houses, and small enough to be invisible to the human eye.
They provide an incredibly flexible platform, and simply adding elements like cameras, lights, audio, sensors, video projectors, or even a robotic arm can increase the utility of a drone exponentially. I’ve written about some of these possibilities in previous articles.
The automation of farming has led to fewer people tending massive estates, with many growing to tens of thousands of acres. This means there are fewer eyes inspecting crops, with less chance of catching problems like disease, infestations, soil issues, or other deficiencies.
Drones, however, have the ability to amp up awareness, giving farmers powerful tools for managing both the plant and its growing environment throughout its lifecycle.
Here are a few current examples of the type of inspections and research that can be automated through the use of drones:
• Terrain, rock, tree, and obstacle mapping
• Calculate Normalized Difference Vegetative Index (NDVI). A calculated vegetative index which shows growers or crop consultants the variability in plant biomass density and plant health across the field
• Hybrid lifecycle charting
• Chlorophyll damage detection
• Ground cover profiling
• Wind profile and wind shear assessment
• Temperature and barometric pressure profiling
• Spore, dust, pollen counts
• Water quality assessments and survey
• Methane, ammonia, and CO2 sensing
• Trait assessment for breeding
• Wireless data collection from ground sensors
• Plant status tracking
• Crop status (growing stage, yield estimates, etc.)
• Precision Agriculture prescription data
• Tiling/drainage evaluation and survey
• Time-saving pre-assessment for field tasks
• Oblique shots for de-tassel timing
• Drainage estimates and topography
• Planting evaluation and replanting requirements
• Pathogen introduction and tracking + Weed levels