The world will need to increase food production by approximately 50% by 2050 to feed the world population of 9 billion. The land and water resources are getting scarcer hence, there is a need to optimize their usage. Data collected through drones can be processed to get analytics and provide actionable values.
- Crop health assessment: It is the first step in providing actionable intelligence for farmers by producing crop health maps so that farmers can determine the areas of potential loss. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is created with the help of multispectral and hyper spectral images. NDVI can help detect plants under stress and differentiate between crop stages. The basic principal of NDVI is that leaves reflect light in near infrared region (NIR). When plants become stressed, they reflect less NIR light. We can mathematically combine the signals to differentiate between healthy and sickly plant. NDVI can also tell us about the precise timing of harvesting. In 2017, Fall Armyworm devastated more than 1, 00,000 hectares of maize in Zambia. The government there used drones to target pests and apply pesticides.
- Crops spraying: Drones like DJI Agras MG-1 are designed for precision variable rate application of pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides to the crops. Modern day drones have tank capacity of over 10 liters of pesticides or fertilizer with discharge rate of approximately a liter a minute, according to this we can cover a hectare in about 10 minutes. Crop spraying when paired with synchronized imagery and automated analytics can be used to address affected areas or plants with precision this will lead to improvement of dosage of liquid pesticides in affected areas and as well as result in reduction of overall use of chemical in that area.
- Planting: we can also shoot seed pods in soil using drones, thus helping to cut down on planting costs.
- Survey and mapping: In 2016, in India, A UAV was used to survey a coffee plantation land, the landowner determined the yield with the help of exact area measurements of land utilization. This process would have the very expensive and time consuming if ground based surveys were used, because the estate was located in a mountainous region and there was no road access at many points.Though still in the stage of infancy, the agricultural drone market is expected to grow over 38% in the next few years as agricultural drones provide better results than existing methods in less time and investment.