With the development of electronics, agricultural drones have become increasingly popular in many areas of agricultural activity. In horticulture for monitoring perennial fruit plantations and informing about possible fires, in animal husbandry to monitor the herd, and of course in crop production to solve a wide range of tasks, such as pesticide application, crop monitoring, mapping of field plots, a survey of hard-to-reach fields, etc.
At the initial stage of introducing UAVs into the production of agricultural crops, it was perceived as a new fashionable toy, but now drones are actively used in production to solve practical problems.
Benefits of using UAVs in Agricultural Drone
According to foreign experts, agricultural drones are a more versatile and effective tool for obtaining data on the state of crops of cultivated crops compared to the information obtained from satellite images. They allow real-time monitoring of the most important indicators of the state of crops, which allows agricultural producers to make timely decisions.
The sensors can significantly expand the functionality of the agricultural drone. Depending on the characteristics of the sensors, mandrels can collect information such as vegetation indices of crops, which characterize the health of plants depending on the degree of reflection and absorption of light waves of different lengths; the number of cultivated plants per unit area of the field and their height; moisture and soil temperature.
The sensors also enable the creation of 3D hyperspectral, topographic, heat, and field maps, maps for assessing biomass, plant diseases, and mapping of plant nutrient uptake and herbicide resistance.
In addition to compiling various field maps, agricultural drones can be used to monitor technological operations in animal husbandry, control herds and determine watering points, apply pesticides, to assess the level of drought, which contributes to the design of irrigation systems. Agricultural drones can also recognize trees and be used in gardening.
Australian specialist Lachlan Feeney believes that drones are not a substitute for satellite imagery, but they complement them perfectly and allow obtaining high-resolution spatial data, which is especially important in the cultivation of crops that require significant costs for sowing, care, and harvesting. The specialist also believes that a drone is an excellent tool for a farmer, allowing him to monitor the state of production in real-time and make decisions quickly.
However, for effective data management, it is necessary to keep track of software updates, do not forget about tools for processing, storing, and analyzing the collected data.
According to the established world practice, it is possible to collect information without licensing only on the basis of one’s own farm. In cases where the UAV is used for commercial purposes, it is necessary to purchase a license. In addition, licensing is required for drones weighing over 25 kg.
A specialist from Australia notes that even in cases where there is no need to purchase a license, it is necessary to first obtain an aviation reference number from the Civil Aviation Safety Directorate, which must be informed about the place and purpose of the proposed flights. After receiving the aviation number, the opportunity is given to use the drone in a certain place for two years to solve the assigned tasks. In case of purchasing a new UAV or changing the place of monitoring, it is necessary to contact the Civil Aviation Security Department again. A similar procedure, possibly with some peculiarities, is applied in other developed countries.
To improve the professionalism of agricultural producers, accredited organizations are now spreading to train specialists on the ground in basic knowledge of remote control of aircraft. One such organization is Drone Technology Institute. The representative of this organization believes that compulsory licensing should be introduced even for aircraft weighing less than 2 kg. This approach allows you to raise the status of an organization that operates drones and by licensing emphasizes its serious attitude to the issue of professionalism and safety of UAV control.
The safe operation of agricultural drones is very important. Sometimes farmers do not even think about the complexity and dangers of pesticide application using drones in fields with uneven terrain and large slopes. To apply crop protection chemicals in such areas, you must use a specialized drone. This machine can move up to 10 kg of pesticide working solution and is capable of treating an area of up to 6000 m² in 10 minutes.
Disadvantages of using UAVs
1. Dependence on weather conditions
The obvious disadvantage of drones is their dependence on meteorological conditions. In windy weather, the control of the apparatus is very difficult, as a result of which the quality of the collected data or the images taken will be low and will certainly require further processing and analysis.
However, one should not forget that unfavorable weather conditions are the norm in some regions. In this case, you need to choose a drone that is resistant to gusts of wind and other factors. When working in such conditions, one should strive to select the most windless days with little cloudiness for analysis and strive to prevent shadows from entering the images created by the UAV.
2. Dependence on Internet speed
You should always consider the fact that at a basic level, most drones use interactive services for positioning and other functions, such as Google Maps. Thus, the use of agricultural drones in Western Europe or North America with a high coverage rate will allow for efficient work, but if you use a drone to solve such problems in the provinces, the result will leave much to be desired.
Experts from far abroad consider birds to be the main obstacle to the effective use of agricultural drones, although GlavPakhar is of the opinion that the inconvenience caused by birds depends on the region where the drone is supposed to be used.
5. Expensive software and hardware
As noted, agricultural drones are a more cost-effective solution for monitoring fields compared to satellite imagery but don’t forget about expensive software and sensors for additional tasks. Do not let yourself be caught by manufacturers who sell an inexpensive drone, and then offer to expand the functionality through periodically updated software, which in addition requires a license. The same can be said about the cost of sensors for solving special problems and devices for applying pesticides.
6. Duration of collecting the necessary information
Foreign experts agree that the prospects for the development of the use of agricultural drones in agricultural production are strongly constrained by the duration of the collection of information. Such long time intervals can disrupt the recommended agrotechnical terms for performing the main technological operations in crop production.