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The Rise of the Drones in Agriculture


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For years now, drone advocates have cited precision agriculture - crop management that uses GPS and big data - as a way to increase crop yield while resolving water and food crises. Unfortunately, drones haven’t had a significant impact on agricultural practices, at least until recently. A lot is happening lately on the subject of drone applications in agriculture and precision farming. From the ability to image, recreate and analyze individual leaves on a corn plant from 120 meters height, to getting information on the water-holding capacity of soils to variable-rate water applications, agricultural practices are changing due to drones delivering agricultural intelligence for both farmers and agricultural consultants.
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Frank Veroustraete*
Department of Bioscience Engineering, University of Antwerp, Belgium
Received: September 15, 2015; Published: September 16, 2015
*Corresponding Author:
Frank Veroustraete, Department of Bioscience Engineering, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171,
2020 Antwerp, Belgium.
The Rise of the Drones in Agriculture
Frank Veroustraete. “The Rise of the Drones in Agriculture”. EC Agriculture 2.2 (2015): 325-327.
Drones Create the Expectation of a Large Swing in the Way We Grow Crops
For years now, drone advocates have cited precision agriculture - crop management that uses GPS and big data - as a way to increase
until recently. A lot is happening lately on the subject of drone applications in agriculture and precision farming. From the ability to im-
age, recreate and analyze individual leaves on a corn plant from 120 meters height, to getting information on the water-holding capacity
of soils to variable-rate water applications, agricultural practices are changing due to drones delivering agricultural intelligence for both
farmers and agricultural consultants.
Unfortunately, many of the promises being made to farmers, drone service providers simply couldn’t deliver, even backed up by
proper research yet. Until now airspace controllers did not open segments of airspace above agricultural areas for commercial drone ag-
are in a start-up phase - to assist both large and small farming operations with water and disease management and a charge for these
and crop rotation strategies and to provide a higher degree of all-around monitoring of how crops are progressing on a day-to-day basis
   -
Figure: 1.
The Rise of the Drones in Agriculture
Frank Veroustraete. “The Rise of the Drones in Agriculture”. EC Agriculture 2.2 (2015): 325-327.
or region. Once crops like corn begin reaching certain heights, mid-season inspections of the nozzles and sprinklers on irrigation equip-
ment that deliver the much-needed water really becomes a painstaking exercise.
ate areas of high-intensity weed proliferation from healthy crop areas growing right alongside them. Historically, many farmers haven’t
realized how pronounced their weed problem is until harvesting was performed.
Though many will argue that ground-based inspections combined with satellite imagery, along with a dedicated grid soil sampling
  
the farmer can apply 300 kg/ha of fertilizer to struggling areas, 200 kg/ha to medium quality areas, and 150 kg/ha to healthy areas,
decreasing fertilizer costs and increasing yield.
Many growers during periods of depressed commodity prices made the call to diversify their farms by adding cattle or swine opera-
 
They are especially helpful for night-time monitoring due to a human’s eye’s inability to see in the dark.
A widely-cited drone report released by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International predicts that the legalization
of commercial drones will create more than €70 billion in economic impact (such as revenues, job creation) between 2015 and 2025,
infrared (NIR) sensors is, thus far, the premier application for drones in farming. This was a task traditionally performed by often-reluc-
in a much shorter time stretch, as well as the capturing of data that cannot be seen by the human eye (like the NDVI or near-infrared).
Moreover, it removes much of the human error aspect of traditional inventory work, though a physical inspection of an area of concern
after viewing the imagery is still recommended.
Irrigation Equipment Monitoring
Mid-Field Weed Identification
Variable-Rate Fertility
Cattle Herd Monitoring
Figure: 2.
Mid-Season Crop Health Monitoring
Drone Applications in Agriculture
The Rise of the Drones in Agriculture
Frank Veroustraete. “The Rise of the Drones in Agriculture”. EC Agriculture 2.2 (2015): 325-327.
As conclusion, it can be stated that as the calendar starts to turn to 2016, the examples given in this Editorial are current and com-
mon uses for drones in precision agriculture. This application list is bound to undergo quite some growth in the near-future as more
equipped agricultural service providers.
1. Colomina I and Molina P. “Unmanned aerial systems for photogrammetry and remote sensing: A review”. ISPRS Journal of Photo-
grammetry and Remote Sensing 92 (2014): 79-97.
2. Jenkins D and Vasigh B. The AUVSI Economic Report (2013). The Economic Impact of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in
the United States (2013). Association for Unmanned Vehicles Association International.
3. Robert Pierre C. “Precision agriculture: new developments and needs in remote sensing and technologies”. Ecosystems’ Dynamics,
Agricultural Remote Sensing, Modelling and Site-Specific Agriculture 5153 (2004).
4. Stehr Nikki J. “Drones: The Newest Technology for Precision Agriculture”. American Society of Agronomy, Natural Sciences 44.1
(2015): 89-91.
5. Urbahs Aleksandrs and Jonaite Ieva. “Features of the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for agriculture applications”. Aviation 17.4
(2013): 170-175.
Volume 2 Issue 2 September 2015
© All rights are reserved by Frank Veroustraete.
... Drones, which first emerged in World War I to take images, were limited to the military field for a long time and then spread to areas such as the entertainment sector, photography, civil defence, and civil defense, and have become widespread in agriculture in recent years (Stehr, 2015). UAVs are used in agriculture for remote sensing, in-season plant health monitoring, weed and pest monitoring, herd management, irrigation system planning (Veroustraete, 2015), pesticide applications, fertilization applications (Önler et al., 2023a) and seed planting. Especially in pesticide applications, both in Türkiye and throughout the world, unmanned aerial vehicles with a liquid tank and spray nozzles serve as an alternative or an assistant to ground spraying machines. ...
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The Economic Impact of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the United States
  • D Jenkins
  • B Vasigh
Jenkins D and Vasigh B. The AUVSI Economic Report (2013). The Economic Impact of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the United States (2013). Association for Unmanned Vehicles Association International.