Precision farming techniques are a step towards improving the conventional agriculture practices. These result in better yield, proper management of resources and incorporation of advanced technology, thereby finding great applicability in the agricultural industry.
The precision farming industry is estimated to be worth $6.43 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 13.09 percent. It holds immense scope for technological innovations and progressive ideas. The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) to assist farmers manage their crops is one such technology that is gaining traction. The drones help decide the farm workers on the requirements of the crops and proper harvesting time for different areas of the farm. They provide solutions to pesticide problems, regulating the cattle and issues regarding watering of the crops.
In the 1990’s Steve Morris envisioned the use of drones in fields for the collection of useful data, but then these drones were put to use for military and surveillance purposes. In recent times Amazon and Google having been creating a buzz with plans to use drones for delivery of goods. Companies like Trimble, Precision Hawk and RoboFlight now offer agricultural drones and the requisite data housing facilities. Phil Ellerbroek, director of sales at RoboFlight said in an interview: “The company also has seen strong demand from farmers looking to RoboFlight to survey their land. Since it first started signing contracts in January, RoboFlight has inked nearly 400,000 acres. The pace of orders from farmers and ranchers has increased since then.”
The technological innovations in the drone market are just in their nascent stage and the scope for development is huge. “The application of these data drones is only limited by our imagination,” said an engineering professor from UC Merced. Infrared cameras and sensors can be attached to these drones, which enable them to stream photos and videos to a ground station, where the images can be stitched together into maps or analyzed to gauge crop health.
In the USA the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is set to promulgate the set of guidelines for the use of drones for agricultural and commercial purposes, until when the use of drones is restricted for military purposes. Though there is a provision for law agencies and government institutions to apply for special permission to operate them in civil airspace. Other countries like Canada, Australia, Japan and Brazil do not have such strict regulations and allow drones to be used in agriculture.
The advent of the drone industry is an asset to precision farming, which in turn is an advancement over the conventional farming practices.
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