They increase crop efficiency, reduce costs and are environmentally friendly; drones have broken into the agricultural sector with multiple possibilities from above, offering various solutions and benefits for so-called precision agriculture.
And it is that the use of this technological tool has allowed that it is no longer necessary to use only satellite or aircraft images to obtain images of the crops, a practice that was often not very detailed, expensive, sometimes inaccurate and often discontinuous due to Weather difficulties
Nowadays, it is possible to have fast, detailed and high-precision information thanks to drones; let’s see in what aspects the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles in agriculture can make a difference.
The arrival of drones in the agricultural sector
A few years ago, the difficulty of having images of crops at the right time forced farmers to use alternative methods to obtain data. That way, they began to take aerial photographs with the help of manned airplanes.
This activity, which initially offered very good results, had some inconveniences for users: high costs per flight and logistical problems, especially when several acquisitions were needed for the temporary monitoring of crops.
This is how the first proposals to use unmanned aerial vehicles – UAV in the work of collecting images that help the proper management of crops emerged. The use of high-definition cameras and camcorders mounted on drones allowed for much faster and more cost-efficient work.
Subsequently, the drones were provided with GPS, which helped direct them through a programmed autonomous route, on the area from which the information was to be extracted. In this way, data could be collected with greater precision, autonomy and security.
Thus, currently, drones equipped with GPS start from a base, make a previously established flight through specialized software and return at the scheduled time with very valuable data for farmers. After the corresponding battery charge, they are ready for the next flight.
This technology allows you to automatically program the day and time of the following flights, as well as collate the meteorological data to perform the flight according to the meteorological and lighting conditions.
Types of drones for agriculture
There is a wide variety of drones that are used as a tool for precision agriculture. Among them, stand out the multirotors or rotary wing, which are the most used and are provided with an engine at each end of the chassis.
There are also the fixed-wing ones, which are similar to the classic airplanes and that have an alar profile that gives them the possibility of supporting themselves and moving through the air, which gives them great flight autonomy.
For their part, VTOL airplanes have the ability to perform take-off and landing vertically, while helicopters are named for their resemblance to those of real size.
Depending on the specific use that will be given to this vehicle, you can choose the most appropriate drone for the task. For example, fixed-wing drones are ideal for mapping large extensions, thanks to their great autonomy that allows you to travel large areas in a single flight.
If what is needed is to collect data from medium surfaces, it is convenient to use a rotary wing drone, since they are more versatile because both its take off and its landing is done vertically.
Drones that are equipped with multispectral cameras are very useful for imaging in crops, especially those that are sensitive in the near infrared region. When flying at such a low height (<120 m), the vegetative state of with a sampling detail of less than 10 cm can be visualized, or in other words, at the leaf level … being a good alternative to satellite images.
Uses of drones in agricultural tasks
The drones revolution in agricultural work allows it to exploit its low flight height to perform activities that formerly farmers could only do from the ground. A drone with multispectral cameras can, for example, analyze solar energy reflected by vegetation in a region of the electromagnetic spectrum (near infrared) that is directly correlated with plant health.
Generally, they are autonomous flights with multispectral or thermal sensors with which data is collected, aerial maps are generated, and relevant information is generated for decision making. The key is in the information, statistically analyzed to generate state patterns, vegetation indices, detect pathologies and alert on anomalies.
With this technology, it is possible to determine if there are areas of the land that are wetter or drier, analyze if a given crop is green or mature or establish the amount of chlorophyll or nitrates. Through thermographic images, water stress or chlorosis problems can be observed.
Some of these drones are used to simulate birds of prey and with their flight scare away large flocks of birds that are harmful to crops. Also, drones are being used for phytosanitary treatments in the vineyards, based on the maps that have been generated from the drone itself and that identify critical points where it is necessary to apply products.
Fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles can analyze more than 200 hectares of land area in a single flight. In the case of flying over a swamp, one of the immediate applications it has is the detection of possible contaminants from its multispectral sensors.
Increase production, improve crop quality and optimize costs, are just some of the benefits offered by these unmanned aerial vehicles; Therefore, more and more farmers are turning to new technologies to get the most out of their crop.
From this new aeronautical sector, the expectations generated with the use of drones for the field bring us closer to a much more efficient and productive agriculture.