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Agricultural drones are drones applied to farming in order to help increase crop production and monitor crop growth. Through the use of advanced sensors and digital imaging capabilities, farmers are able to use these drones to help them gather a richer picture of their fields. Information gathered from such equipment may prove useful in improving crop yields and farm efficiency.
Agricultural drones let farmers see their fields from the sky. This bird's-eye view can reveal many issues such as irrigation problems, soil variation, and pest and fungal infestations. Multispectral images show a near-infrared view as well as a visual spectrum view. The combination shows the farmer the differences between healthy and unhealthy plants, a difference not always clearly visible to the naked eye. Thus, these views can assist in assessing crop growth and production.
Additionally, the drone can survey the crops for the farmer periodically to their liking. Weekly, daily, or even hourly, pictures can show the changes in the crops over time, thus showing possible “trouble spots”. Having identified these trouble spots, the farmer can attempt to improve crop management and production.
As drones entered use in agriculture, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) encouraged farmers to use this new technology to monitor their fields. However, with the unexpected boom of agricultural drones, the FAA quickly retracted such encouragement, pending new rules and regulations. With incidents such as drones crashing into crop dusters, it was vital for the FAA and the AFBF (American Farm Bureau Federation) to agree on regulations that would allow the beneficial use of such drones in a safe and efficient manner. Although the American Farm Bureau Federation would like small adjustments to some of the restrictions that have been implemented, they are happy that the agricultural industry can actually use this new machinery without the worry of facing any legal issues.
While there are many ways to improve crop growth through the use of agricultural drones, there is also a question of its security aspect. Through the use of drones, farmers are able to monitor and record their crop. Though, what if an alternative company started flying their drones in unregulated areas and surveying their competition? Such a scenario could lead to compromising vital company secrets. People want to know that they are safe and protected at all times, so the burden doesn’t just fall on the farmer, but these are burdens that can fall on the shoulders of many of those around the farmer, too.
The use of agricultural drones has ethical and social implications. One benefit is that they are able to monitor and control the use of pesticides properly. This allows minimizing the environmental impact of pesticides.
However, drones don't need access authority to flying overs someone's property at under 400 feet (130 m) altitude. They may have microphones and cameras attached, and the resulting concern for potential privacy violation has caused some opposition towards drones.
There is a lot of room for growth with agricultural drones. With technology constantly improving, imaging of the crops will need to improve as well. With the data that drones record from the crops the farmers are able to analyze their crops and make educated decisions on how to proceed given the accurate crop information. Software programs for analyzing and correcting crop production have the potential to grow in this market. Close your eyes and imagine a farmer being able to fly a drone over their crops, be able to accurately identify an issue in a specific area, and then take the necessary actions in order to resolve the problem. Having this capability allows the farmer to, in turn, have more time to focus on the big picture of production instead of spending time surveying their crops. The drones allow for real time data to be delivered back to the user to be inspected, which for a farmer, is a huge game changer.
- Aerial seeding
- Agricultural robot
- Environmental monitoring
- Mechanised agriculture
- Precision agriculture
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