Within the past 10 years, the agricultural industry has experienced a huge shift in optimisation and efficiency with the emergence of drones. So much so that it’s forecast that drones will save AUD $310-940 million to agriculture in 20401. Drones have sped up the process of how farmers can manage their fields, bringing significant advantages in precision farming. 10%1 of agriculture businesses in Australia are using drones to help farmers increase crop productivity, reduce costs, and improve sustainability. In this guide, we will explore how drones are reshaping an age old industry for the better.
Aerial Crop Monitoring
Drones dedicated to agriculture are equipped with advanced multispectral sensors such as NDVI which have the ability to capture agricultural based aerial imagery and monitor crop health. These drones can detect early signs of disease, nutrient deficiencies, water stress, and weed infestations. By being proactive in identifying and addressing these issues, farmers can optimise the use of fertilisers, pesticides, and irrigation, resulting in increased crop output and reduced environmental impact.
Drones although easily capable of capturing aerial imagery, can also utilise GNSS and RTK (here’s a guide on acronyms) that enable centimetre level positioning for mapping. This allows farmers to navigate expansive fields and deliver targeted treatments with high precision to specific areas, reducing waste and minimising the potential for overuse. This precision application not only saves material and time costs, but also enhances the overall health of crops by not overwhelming them with resources.
Drones built for spraying applications allow a new degree in precision agriculture application. These drones are equipped with advanced spraying systems that allows for efficient and accurate application of fertilisers, pesticides, and other agrochemicals to crops. Through the use of precision mapping explained above, spraying drones are able to navigate fields with utmost precision, delivering the correct amount of chemicals to only those required areas minimising wastage. This highly targeted approach not only saves agrochemicals by being more efficient, but they also reduce the environmental impact of overspray with associated runoffs. These drones offer a cost-effective and sustainable solution for maintaining health and productive fields, especially those on less than flat lands.
By regularly surveying fields using agricultural drones, farmers can capture aerial data over time and process this within software to create accurate 3D models. These models, combined with advanced data analytics, enable farmers to analyse plant health, measure biomass, and predict crop yields. These insights into previously unobtainable data can help farmers make informed decisions regarding irrigation, harvesting schedules, and resource allocation, ultimately leading to improved productivity and profitability.
Enhancing Farm Management and Planning
Beyond simple crop monitoring, drones can provide real-time data and detailed field maps, enabling farmers to identify areas with low productivity, implement targeted interventions, and optimise resource allocation. Drones also help farmers identify drainage issues, soil variability, and land contours, aiding in effective land management practices. Being able to make data driven decisions, reduce risks, and improve the sustainability of operations, farmers businesses are becoming more competitive with the use of drones.
Environmental Benefits and Sustainability
Drones help in contributing to a more sustainable future in agriculture. Through precision application of chemicals, reducing waste and minimising impact on the environment, but also through more efficient use of resources, drones enable sustainable farming practices. Drones also reduce the requirement for manual labour and machinery, resulting in lower carbon emissions. As a result, drones help farmers adopt a more eco-friendly approach to business whilst increasing yields.
The integration of drones in agriculture has created a new era in how farming is operated, enabling farmers to optimise their operations, increase productivity, and reduce environmental impacts. With the ability to monitor crops in real time, predict future yields, and precision resource application, drones are transforming this old industry and helping farmers make data driven decisions. As technology continues to advance, we can expect even more developments in drone technology to further enhance agriculture in Australia. Farmers are getting on board this shift, to a more cost effective business that can boost eco credentials whilst improving profits.