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Farmers may soon put “drone-flying”
along with “tractor-driving” as a necessary skill. Drones (or UAV -unmanned aerial vehicles) used
to be reserved for military or spying operations. These days, they are serving a more green
purpose, helping farmers to obtain low-altitude aerial views of their property
whenever they want. This can help farmers quickly identify stressed crops and
pinpoint where water, fertiliser, pest or weed control is required. They are also used to monitor livestock
location and animal health and to identify problems with irrigation equipment. Drones usually fly anything from
a few metres to around 100 metres above ground, so there is no cloud
interference and images are much clearer. No
wonder that the demand for drones in farming is steadily rising!
are usually miniature, multi-bladed helicopters, or fixed-wing airplanes fitted
with sensors/cameras. The images they take are converted by software into high-resolution
mosaic maps. The evolution of smaller, cheaper and easier-to-fly drones has
arisen from remarkable technological advances in MEMs, GPS, cameras and radios.
The lowering of prices (some are <$1000) and
increased availability of drones enables agricultural professionals to quickly
gather crop information at a low cost without the long wait to access satellite
images or the expense of manned aircraft flights. Drones can take multispectral
patterns, NDVI (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index), visible and IR views
of crops to distinguish between healthy and distressed plants in a way that
cannot be seen with the naked eye. The farmer can thus immediately identify issues
with crops and take action.
Apart from the imaging, larger drones can
also be used to deliver targeted inputs such as chemical sprays and seeds.
There is also research into other novel applications such as: delivery of
biological control insects like californicus mites onto maize crops affected by
leaf-killing spotted mites; predicting crop yields; soil organic matter surveys
and even potential for collecting specimens of weeds/insects in the field.
However, there are still many improvements required
before drones fulfil their amazing potential.
This includes improved functionality, software, hardware, and return on
investment, as well as training mechanisms.
Fewer restrictions on their
agricultural use may be required according to national or state regulations in many
countries and in some places, regulations are still to be formulated, causing
to learn more about successful crop production?
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