With drone operation prices dropping significantly in the past few years, agricultural drone technology is becoming more attainable to small scale farmers in developing countries. The current industry standard, satellite imagery, can be costly, time-consuming, and weather dependent- the upsides to drone usage have many industry experts expressing optimism. Drones, have most recently been used in Jaipur, India where it was used to scare away the millions of locusts that were rampaging crops as part of the 2019-2020 Locust Infestation.
- Drones are pioneering how farmers maintain the health of their crop
Farmers must combat many foes when tending to a crop, including fungi, bacteria, and other pests. Drones equipped with imaging devices let farmers track the spread of such threats, and can provide precise analysis on just how much pesticides are needed to address the problem. This stops infections from ruining a whole crop and also helps farmers minimize the damage to surrounding areas caused by pesticides. Furthermore, the detailed datasets collected by drones could be used as proof of crop illness to insurance companies or governments. This ensures that even in an event of significant crop loss, a farmer and his or her family are not left destitute.
- Drones can let farmers spot and address crop issues early, therefore saving them money
Small-scale farmers in developing countries have two options when weeds or other pests threaten their crop: they can spend hours dealing with it themselves or spend a share of their precious income on hired help. Drones can fly below cloud cover and collect imagery that could warn farmers of impending problems, allowing time for these problems to be addressed before they threaten a whole crop. Such methods have been used by industrial farmers to much success, and farmers in developing countries stand much to gain from adopting this technology as well.
- For drought-prone regions, drones could be utilized to produce more crop stability
Drones equipped with thermal sensors can detect which areas of a field are too dry. Farmers experiencing drought could use this technology to specifically target the parts of their fields that need help, eliminating waste. This information could also be used to curb crop loss due to drought, which is debilitating to farmers and their families.
- Even before planting, drones represent an opportunity to optimize farming
Soil and field analysis before crop plantation is key to a successful harvest. Drones, in particular, are more adept at providing such information over satellite imagery due to the small scope that drones may operate under, which allows for an increased level of detail. Making this technology widely available could result in higher crop yields for farmers in developing countries, where an increase in yield would mean an uplift for the farmers’ whole family.
- Drones could improve outcomes for livestock farmers
Some experts believe that farmers of the future could come to rely on drones to supervise grazing, freeing up farmers for other activities. Thermal sensing technology could help track down injured animals and calculate exact herd totals. These tasks can be very time consuming for livestock farmers, and drones could play a vital role in streamlining costs in the future.
Drones can help people, including farmers and scientists, look at and analyze pretty much anything. When it comes to farm fields, they can help track flooding, hail damage, or even plant health — fast. The invaluable data provided by low-flying drones could be the key to these farmers being able to support their families, as well as allowing them to compete with larger farmers. So, with a little know-how — and the right license — farmers can turn to drones to grow food more efficiently. That’s better for their business, for consumers, and for the environment.