One of the advantages of using drones in agriculture is to monitor crops apart from land management, plant health management, soil analysis, monitor irrigation systems etc. A farmer can keep an eye on crops to identify any kind of problems, allowing them to take the necessary action to treat them before they worsen.
Researchers from Belgian university, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, have even been working with a remote sensing company to use drones to count flowers in fruit orchards. Estimating flower numbers from a random sample of trees enables growers to monitor the progress and potential yield of each year’s crop. Data captured can inform decisions on plant management, for example strategies to thin out plants to promote growth. But the work is time-intensive and sometimes inaccurate when carried out by a human eye looking up into the branches. Drones are changing the way farms operate and are delivering better results with less human effort.
India’s agriculture industry is one of the largest and employs more than half of the country’s population. However, the country has not embraced mechanization as readily as developed and other developing countries. Most Indian farmers own land approximately one hectare in size, which is too small for high productivity. There are more than 140 million landholders in India and almost two-thirds of them are less than one hectare. According to a report titled “Use of Drones in Agriculture: Potentials, Problems and Policy Needs” by ICAR-NIASM, there are forty start-up drone companies developing new technologies to decrease the cost of drones, to make it affordable for farmers. The Maharashtra Government in India has also signed an agreement with the World Economic Forum (WEF) to explore how drones can be used in various ways to improve their state.
How can drones help farmers in achieving agricultural goals
Drone technology is pervasively affecting many aspects of farming practices.
- Increase in productivity – Drone use by farmers will increase productivity by decreasing labor usage. This is because they can decrease manual surveillance or eliminate it altogether.
- Crop monitoring – Farmers now have the choice to continuously monitor their crops and conduct surveillance from the comfort of their homes.
- Locust control – Locusts are an agricultural menace and can devastate crops overnight. Using drones, locusts can be sprayed with insecticides without harming crops and livestock too.
- Crop protection – Drones can be used to spray right amount of pesticides at the appropriate time, resulting less wastage and greater output.
- Crop plantation – Drones can also be used in the early stages of the agricultural growing cycle, like mass sowing and planting in less time.
- Managing Water Reserves – Farmers use water to grow crops. Managing the water is vital for effective crop growth. Drones, when used to water crops with drip irrigation practices, are a great way to be water-efficient.
Drone Rules 2021
The Drone Rules 2021 must be adopted as a front runner when it comes to agricultural activities, the Indian government introduced them on July 15. Drones will require a unique identification number and these details must be provided on the digital sky platform, a single-window online system, where most of the permissions of Drones can be generated by individuals, without any human intervention. Also, the coverage of drones under Drone Rules 2021 has been increased from 300 kg to 500 kg which is beneficial for farmers as the payload can now be substantially increased cutting down their total cost.
In a nutshell, the market for agricultural UAVs alone is impressive and is growing every year. There has been a substantial increase in startups involving drones in India. With an increased population, we will experience more stress on the land as the production has to be higher. Drone technology will help farmers to work smartly and efficiently.