Agricultural Drones 101

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Beginning as exclusive tools for military reconnaissance, recent technological innovations have pushed drones into the hands of businesses and the public. As drones continue to find their place in different commercial sectors, drone technology is disrupting traditional methods of getting things done. For example, high definition video drones make it possible to market a home like never before with beautiful bird’s-eye views. Businesses are able to provide maximum value through same-day delivery with online orders. Teens are even enjoying the recreational uses of racing drones on the weekends. Not surprisingly, drones have found their way into the agricultural sector by helping farmers maximize the yields of their crops.

If you’re in the agricultural sector and you haven’t yet taken advantage of agricultural drones, it’s time to reconsider. Below is a overview of the issues related with traditional farming methods, how agricultural drones are being used to solve these inefficiencies and the specific models farmers are currently using to grow their businesses.

TRADITIONAL INEFFICIENCIES AND THE NEED TO OPTIMIZE

Today’s farmers are facing a lot of pressure. Functioning as both business owners and food providers to the entire country, farmers are required to run an efficient business while protecting the integrity of their crop or livestock. On top of this, farmers are facing increasing demands to increase their yields to match the growing population.

According to the MIT Technology Review, 9.6 billion people are expected to call Earth home by 2050. 9.6 billion people will need to eat, and farmers are expected to fill that need. To maximize their yields, farmers must focus on optimizing their farm management processes. Crop monitoring stands out as the key focus within the umbrella of farm management.

Of course, the most ancient form of crop monitoring is walking the fields. Hundreds of years ago in the absence of technology, this method assumedly worked great. Today, with an average farm size of 441 acres, walking the crop is both costly and time-consuming. Instead, today’s farmers can opt for helicopter or airplane fly-over filming for crop monitoring services. However, the issue of inefficiency remains. With manned aircraft surveillance costing nearly $1,000 an hour, farmers are placing a heavy investment in a service that isn’t guaranteed. Cloud cover, subjectivity of the human eye and other environmental factors can skew the accuracy of these reports. Even satellite imagery has its faults. Most satellites typically provide imagery for a specific location once every three days, inhibiting farmers from real time information. On top of this gap in time, poor weather conditions can hold up satellite imagery, making it more difficult for a farmer to stay current in the health of his or her crop.

Clearly, there’s a disconnect between the efficiencies of agricultural drones relative to the other crop monitoring methods traditionally used by America’s farmers. The use of agricultural drones is a new concept to many farmers, but a group of early-adopters is leveraging the technology in their businesses today.

THE RISE OF AGRICULTURAL DRONES

Agricultural drone technologies were initially sold directly to crop analysts rather than farmers due to the complexity of use. However, technological innovations are making these powerful pieces of technology more accessible to the modern farmer.

In fact, advances in drone technology within the past five years indicate that agricultural uses will account for 80 percent of the commercial market for drones.  

The reason drones are taking off in this industry is because the technology gives farmers the necessary information to make decisions that will maximize the yields of their crops. Again, with pressure to maximize output from the growing population, increasing efficiencies is top-of-mind. The multiple uses of our agricultural drones for sale are all encompassing, with functions ranging from identifying chlorophyll levels to detecting pest infestations.

TOP APPLICATIONS

Farmers who are leveraging drone technology are simply better decision-makers than their traditional counterparts. Because of their ability to make informed decisions, it should come as no surprise that these tech-savvy farmers are experiencing larger yields. The common theme related to the use of agricultural drones is the ability to fast-forward time-consuming processes while gaining a plethora of information about farmers’ crops.

Arguably the most valuable benefit of leveraging agricultural drones is the amount of time farmers are saving when it comes to crop monitoring. Walking the land or using a manned-aircraft is costly (as discussed above) and more importantly time-consuming. Depending on the size of the farm, these traditional methods of crop monitoring can take a labor force an entire day. Drones have the capabilities of shortcutting this process almost entirely. For example, the SenseFly eBee agricultural drone can cover 1,000 hectares in only forty-five minutes, traveling at speeds anywhere from 25 to 56mph. Compared to satellite imagery, which often limits the amount of coverage to a once-ever-few-days basis, drones have the capabilities of surveying land each and every hour. For farmers who are leveraging this technology, real time data of their entire crop is available at their fingertips – a luxury unheard of before the emergence of drone technology.

Agricultural drones are capturing information impossible to detect from a ground-view or the naked eye. The low-altitude views and diverse range of imagery are helping farmers stay proactive in their fight against poor crop health. Seeing the entire crop from an aerial view – one specifically unobstructed from cloud cover – enables farmers to detect anything from irrigation problems to the beginning stages of pest infestation. To get an even clearer idea of their crop health, farmers are leveraging infrared imaging and multi-spectral sensors. Infrared imaging is helping farmers detect changes in healthy and unhealthy plants, giving them the exact locations of areas that need more attention. Multi-spectral sensors can provide details indicating which plants are over-moisturized or in the beginning stages of disease. The PrecisionHawk Lancaster includes LIDAR and hyper-spectral imaging, in addition to thermal, visual and multispectral imaging. The Lancaster is one of many agricultural drones with capabilities that are defining the industry standard, and continued advances in technology are making this standardization possible.

We briefly touched on two models above, and we’re now going to take a more detailed look at these and the other top agricultural drones currently available. These are the pieces of technology farmers are using nationwide to save time, make better decisions and maximize their yields:

SenseFly eBee

The SenseFly eBee is one of the top agricultural drones on the market right now for good reason. With thousands of users and 220,000 successful recorded flights, the eBee is a piece of technology with a proven track record backed by a global support team.

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Ease of Use

The eBee includes proprietary flight planning and management software, making the process of creating a flight plan integrated and simple. The operator defines the area to scout, specifies the desired ground resolution and sets the image overlap. From there, the eBee automatically generates the flight plan by leveraging GPS software.

Maximum Efficiency

Known for its speed, the eBee photographs hundreds of acres in a single flight. On top if this, the images the eBee captures can be analyzed in real time with cloud technology.

Informed Decision-Making

With the eBee, you can choose from a number of different methods to analyze the accumulated data from your crop. A few of these methods include:

  • Vegetation indices (NDVI, CWSI, etc.)
  • Elevation data and topography
  • Plant counting and statistics
  • Soil moisture and temperature

There are farmers who are leveraging this technology to detect structural or chlorophyll differences in their crops, monitor erosion and design irrigation systems or detect early signs of pest infestation.

Please note these models are not directly available online, you will be required to contact either the manufacturer or a 3rd party.  Contact us for assistance. 
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PrecisionHawk Lancaster

The PrecisionHawk Lancaster prides itself on being the one stop shop for incorporating agricultural data into everyday workflow processes. PrecisionHawk’s strategic partnerships are designed to provide farmers with maximum crop performance and seamless crop monitoring to generate larger yields.

precisionhawk-lancaster-minIntegrated Services

PrecisionHawk bundles its drone with crop mapping and analysis tools to give farmers total control over their data. Nearly 11 crop analytics tools are included in these services to dissect the data accumulated during drone flights.

Long-lasting Durability

The Lancaster features a fixed wing platform to increase the machine’s durability in harsh conditions. Designed and engineered to endure hard landings and unfavorable weather, the Lancaster can collect data despite the external environment.

Complete Data Delivery

The Lancaster is built with all-encompassing data collection technology. Sensors include visual, thermal, multispectral, lidar and hyperspectral options. Armed with a total overview of their farms’ health, farmers are leveraging PrecisionHawk technology to understand their farms and predict yields.

Please note these models are not directly available online, you will be required to contact either the manufacturer or a 3rd party. Contact us for assistance. 
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DJI AGRAS MG-1

DJI’s agricultural drone, the AGRAS MG-1, is unique relative to the previous two drones we’ve covered. Specifically, the MG-1 is an octocopter designed for variable rate application of liquid pesticides or fertilizers.

dji-agriculture-minPowerful Propulsion

The MG-1 is designed to carry up to 10kg of liquid payloads in the form of pesticides and fertilizers. In 10 minutes, the MG-1 can cover an area of 4,000-6,000 square meters – nearly 40 to 60 times faster than manual spraying systems. Depending on flying speed, the MG-1 will adjust its spray accordingly ensuring an even spay is consistently applied.

Designed for Reliability

The MG-1’s design combats against dust and corrosion, protecting its owner from high repair costs and short lifespans. To put it simply, the MG-1 incorporates a centrifugal cooling system as it flies, leveraging the surrounding air to increase the expected lifespan of each motor by nearly three times.

Sophisticated Intelligence

For each flight path, the MG-1 automatically records its trajectory and remembers past coordinates. The drone features an empty tank warning, operation resumption and data protection – decreasing the amount of active involvement on the operator’s part.

Please note these models are not directly available online, you will be required to contact either the manufacturer or a 3rd party.  Contact us for assistance. 

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WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

The power of drones for farmers is un-paralleled to old practices. Walking the crop, paying for manned-aircrafts or relying on satellites are dying practices and hinder the potential of each and every crop’s yield. The farmers who are adopting new and innovative technology through the form of agricultural drones are staying ahead of the curve and are positioning themselves for growth in the wake of a growing population.

It bears repeating: if you’re in the agricultural sector and you haven’t yet taken advantage of our agricultural drones for sale, it’s time to reconsider.