Look up, way up on any farm, acreage or vineyard these days and you are probably apt to see the future…drone farming.
A couple of years ago, drones were mostly focused on reconnaissance military operations. When they were first introduced, nobody could imagine that they might also useful across multiple industries. In fact, you could probably be considered crazy if you told somebody that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones (flying robots) as they are widely known, would carry out duties usually reserved for people. But there is no doubt that drones are becoming and integral part of everyday farming and the potential that they have in the industry are so massive.
Not long ago, farming industry was highly reliant on human labor, read costly and limited. Employees had to cover huge fields to collect data, supervise and tend to crops, and even with the involvement of modern machinery and technology, there is still the need of human labor (albeit in reduced proportions) to ensure that these machines all work efficiently. While these machines allow farmers to efficiently tend and monitor their crops, they are very expensive and can at times lead to errors especially if there are vast lands to be covered.
Drones are an Incredibly Efficient Solution
Economically speaking, the agricultural industry is quickly becoming one of the biggest marketplaces for drones. Before drones, using helicopters, or small bi planes, would be the only efficient way of monitoring bid swaths of farm lands and only a small amount of farms could afford this. This has elevated the demands of drones in the industry as they are more cost-effective and efficient than employing human labor plus they can be far more precise in their functions. Most drones are battery-powered and are fitted with on-board sensors that have the potential to scan for health problems within crops, closely monitor temperatures and hydration and accurately track growth rates.
According to a recently released report by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, agriculture is foretasted to make up around 80% of the prospective drone market in the next decade. The report also indicates that the continued rise of drone use in the industry has led to more than 104,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S. alone. In fact, there are a host of drone manufacturing companies that are manufacturing specific drones for agricultural use.
For example, there is AgDrone, from HoneyComb, which is fitted with an assortment of sensors such as thermal imaging, multispectral normalized difference vegetation index and stereoscopic that allow farmers to monitor their crops cheaply and more efficiently than conventional methods. In essence, drones can perfectly carry out additional farming actions that traditional farm surveying vehicles cannot do.
For now, drones will require authorization from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be used as commercially safe, legal farming and business tools but even with this pending authorization, there is clear evidence that the use, and maybe even need for, of drones is already in motion and are set to make a huge impact on how crops are grown and tended to going forward.