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How are drones used in Agriculture? 

Drones are being used in agriculture for tasks such as crop surveillance and spraying, livestock supervision, and land mapping.

In recent years, the agricultural industry has witnessed a remarkable transformation fueled by advancements in technology. Among the most groundbreaking innovations is the integration of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, into farming practices.  
 
Agriculture drones have emerged offering farmers a plethora of benefits ranging from precision monitoring to enhanced crop management. From pest control to plant health monitoring, livestock management to weed and soil analysis, and even aerial surveying, there are so many ways drones are being used in agriculture. 

Why are drones used in agriculture?

With the world's population projected to reach over 9 billion by 2050, the demand for food production is set to double. However, the challenge lies in increasing food production without further expanding agricultural land, which could have detrimental effects on the environment.  

This dilemma underscores the importance of precision agriculture, which seeks to optimise farming practices to maximise yields while minimising resource usage. Drones have emerged as a technological advancement in precision agriculture, offering farmers solutions to monitor crops, weed detection, assess soil health, and make informed decisions to enhance productivity and sustainability in farming practices. 

Livestock Monitoring 

The use of drones in agriculture for livestock monitoring, involves aerial surveillance of animals, for mustering and checking their well-being, taking out the time and cost for manual mustering and checking by vehicle. Livestock monitoring with drones allows farmers to efficiently track the health, behaviour, and location of their animals across vast areas of land.

Companies like SkyKelpie are aiming to encourage the widespread adoption of drone use in agriculture for livestock locating and mustering tasks. Currently, livestock mustering is predominantly carried out by graziers using traditional methods such vehicles, motorbikes, horseback and for vast geographical regions by helicopter. However, these conventional practices can be unsafe and incur substantial costs, both financially and in terms of time, as they require significant resources and labour. Ag drones also use the power of drones to locate and map tagged animals, while Drone Hand offers a subscription based drone flight app to reduce the cost, risks and time spent on livestock monitoring.  

Sky Kelpie ultilising drones for livestock monitoring

Plant Health Monitoring  

Another important use for drones in agriculture is plant health monitoring. Ensuring the health of crops is vital for achieving good yields, and drones equipped with RBG cameras, thermal imaging, and multi-spectral imaging provide real-time data on various factors that affect crop health. Traditionally, farmers relied on visual inspections and soil analysis, which were time-consuming and often lagged behind in providing real-time insights.

Drones, however, offer immediate and accurate data. Prisma Technologies, for example, fly over fields and collect data on plant count, health conditions, and soil composition, enabling farmers to identify areas of concern and take proactive measures to address them.  

Water Management and crop surveillance  

With drones covering a Birds Eye view, they can therefore assist in water management by mapping flows and surveying crops for the improvement  of irrigation practices. By employing drones, farmers can precisely pinpoint areas of inefficiency or potential leakage, thus conserving precious water resources. Additionally, they offer detailed insights into soil moisture levels and crop water stress through aerial surveys. This allows farmers to adjust irrigation schedules based on real-time data, reducing water wastage and promoting sustainable agricultural practices through targeted irrigation management. 

Spraying and fertiliser application  

One of the most beneficial uses of drones in agriculture is drone weed mapping with precision spraying and fertiliser applications. This allows farmers to accurately and efficiently target plants, saving time and money by reducing the amount of chemical wastage. Spraying and fertiliser applications with drones is something that XAG Australia’s spray drones specialise in. These drones are also equipped to aid in weed detection providing farmers with valuable insights to effectively manage weed infestations and maintain crop health. By detecting weeds early on, farmers can implement targeted control measures, minimising crop damage and optimising yields. 

What are the benefits of using drones in agriculture?

Cost savings  

By identifying issues such as nutrient deficiencies or irrigation problems early, drones help farmers optimise inputs like fertilisers and water, reducing waste and lowering production costs. 
 
Increased efficiency  

Drones enable farmers to survey large areas of land quickly and efficiently, saving time and labour compared to traditional ground-based methods. This increased efficiency can lead to improved decision-making and resource allocation. 
 
Improved safety and accessibility  

Drones are versatile and can access areas of a farm that may be difficult or dangerous for humans to reach, such as steep terrain or dense vegetation, allowing for more comprehensive monitoring and management. 
 
Enhanced crop management  

With the detailed data collected by drones, farmers can implement targeted interventions, such as precision spraying or variable rate application of inputs, to maximise crop yields while minimising environmental impact. 
 
Increased Sustainability  

By enabling more precise and efficient farming practices, drones contribute to sustainable agriculture by minimising resource use, reducing chemical runoff, and preserving soil health. 

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