Unmanned aerial vehicles—more popularly known as drones—have been around for decades. Thanks to continuous technological advancements and relaxed regulations, their presence in a wide variety of applications—including the field of farming—is more pronounced than ever. In fact, according to Global Market Insights, shipments of agricultural drones around the globe will exceed 200,000 units by 2024. Frankly, we’re not surprised at all given the many ways to use an agricultural drone on the farm. Curious how you can use drones as a farmer? Read on!

1. Drones for field analysis

Even at the onset of the crop cycle, drones already have a place on your farm. They help carry out field analysis by generating precise 3D maps of the soil, which ultimately makes it easier for farmers to effectively plan seed planting patterns.

2. Planting assistance

Drone planting systems have grown to become a promising niche in farming. Many startups have delved into experimenting with using drones to shoot pods containing seeds and plant-sustaining nutrients to the soil. Such a system has makes it possible to decrease planting costs by as much as 85 percent.

3. Crop dusting and spraying

Drones fitted with light-detection and ranging (LiDAR) equipment can measure distance using ultrasonic echoing and lasers. This makes agricultural drones perfect for crop spraying because they help achieve two end results:

  • Increased spraying efficiency: Drones are able to automatically adjust their altitude according to the detected geography and topography, which makes the process of crop spraying a lot faster. What’s more, drones are easier and cheaper to maintain than full-on crop dusters.
  • Reduction of the amount of chemicals used: Because of LiDAR capabilities, drones are able to scan the ground and accordingly adjust the spray volume in real time. This results in a more even, well-distributed coat—therefore avoiding overspraying, reducing the total amount of chemicals used, and minimizing risks of groundwater contamination.

4. Irrigation

Sensors that have the ability to detect parts of the field that need additional moisture already exist. When fitted into drones, farmers will be able to collect real-time data that they can use to carry out an immediate response to budding dryness issues. Conversely, thermal cameras can also identify regions that are more prone to pooling water.

5. Agricultural drones for crop and field monitoring

Crop and field monitoring has always been one of the biggest challenges in the world of farming—especially for farmers who own vast fields and are exposed to unpredictable weather conditions. Today, farm UAVs can help farmers track the precise development of a crop using time-lapse animations. Also, drone-driven soil analysis may be done throughout the crop cycle to monitor and manage nitrogen and moisture levels in the soil more effectively.

6. Crop health assessment

Farm drones with infrared sensors can help farmers assess and understand plant health by tracking changes in the field’s normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). This also makes it easier for us to immediately respond to detected changes, which can sometimes spell the difference between crop success and failure.

7. Farm drones for livestock monitoring

An agricultural drone with a thermal imaging camera lets you keep an eye on your livestock at all times. You can use the drone to check in on the herd and immediately see if there are injured or missing animals. Likewise, having this technology on your farm also lets you monitor animals that are due to give birth more easily.

8. Pest control

One of the best ways to use an agricultural drone is to incorporate it into your pest control strategy. You can automate a drone to carry out pesticide spraying and even use gathered insights to optimize the entire process.

9. Annual checkups

The best solutions to agricultural challenges are those that have positive, long-term effects. With that said, farmers can use drone technology to conduct annual checkups. This will let them see if any of the changes they’ve implemented on the farm are actually working.

Moreover, flying over the field the same day every year will provide you is a great way to track and observe your farm’s annual improvement (or lack thereof).