Drone Assisted Precision Agriculture, and what it can do for you

27th August 2016

Drone acquired imagery has the potential to provide great oversight and insight into many aspects of farming. The aerial perspective immediately gives an overview that allows us to evaluate an area as a whole and immediately see differences in crop quality and coverage. Stitching multiple images together and the use of cameras that can see light beyond our visible spectrum can take this further, giving more detailed information on the crop.

We decided all that was great, but it needed to be turned into actual informative and actionable reports that can help to increase productivity and save farmers money. To that end we have been working to create services that are actually useful to farmers, developing work-flows and practices that provide informative, actionable crop data from above. We now offer solutions that allow farmers to further optimise inputs and estimate returns all whilst benefiting the environment at the same time.

Drones-assisted crop scouting takes the random sampling element out of walking fields. From the ground it is difficult to see what’s happening in the entire crop, and randomly checking patches means you could miss something in early development and needs attention. Buying a small drone system that’s easy to fly, sending it up to map a field with the click of a button and getting results within hours allows you to get an accurate overview of the entire field. The software can then identify areas that have issues, so you know where to focus your attention.

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Drones with higher end multi-spectral cameras can produce maps of crop health, green area index and nitrogen content to built prescription maps that can be fed directly into variable rate application machinery. They can also identify weeds such as Black Grass earlier than you might otherwise, or detect disease such as blight early giving you the chance to control it before it spreads. And by mapping the same fields over the course of a season we can start to look at biomass and yield predictions, as well as how your inputs effect crops over time. Over time a useful ‘picture’ of a farmers land can be built that will allow better management decisions in the long run.

Whilst there are many drone solutions for farmers coming onto the market, many offer a lot of hype with no actual real-world use beyond some nice photos. Solutions such as ours have the potential to save money through reducing inputs and increasing yield.

Beyond just data, we’re now trialling drone-based spraying systems that will allow efficient coverage of targeted areas over any terrain and with no adverse impact. These systems will be ideal for bracken and weed control, accessing areas where other spraying systems simply wont fit, or over ground that is too rocky or steep. Legislation for such systems isn’t in place yet, but being the first ever to pass the PA7 with a drone, we’re on the way to being able to provide services ans systems next year. Finally, by pairing these with our mapping systems we can see a future where targets are identified and sprayed automatically, so farmers can finally have a bit of time to do the things that rally matter, like having a pint.

This is a guest article written by Jack Wrangham, Drone AG – tel: 01668 217100 email: jack@droneag.farm

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