Modern technology plays a prominent role in the development of agricultural industry; farmers are using the latest innovations to improve agrarian activities. Current farmers' usage the newest machinery, transport services, cooling facility, and another modern method of irrigation to grow crops through advanced technology. Many modern farmers are using drones to perform various agricultural activities. Drones are also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS). There are several usages of drones such as military purposes, agriculture work, aerial photography, shipping & delivery, thermal sensor imagery, geographic mapping, safety incepts and much more. The role of drones in agriculture sector is rapidly growing with time. In the agriculture industry, drones are used for mapping, field analysis, planting, crop spraying, monitoring, irrigation, quality assessment and much more. This report will focus on analysing the use of drones in the agriculture industry. The report will discuss the impact of drones on the development of agriculture sector. The report will also evaluate different drawbacks of using drones in irrigation activity. Further, the report will analyse the improvement in service delivery due to the latest technology and provide recommendations for better use of technology in the agriculture sector.
Agriculture is the farming and breeding of plants, crops, animals, fungi, fiber and other products which assist in sustaining and enhancing human lives. In recent years, the popularity of American farmlands has dominated the industrial agriculture and majority of chemically intensive crop production has developed after the World War II. Industrial agriculture focus on growing a particular crop on a significantly large scale such as wheat, corn, cotton, rice, and soybeans, it is also known as a monoculture. The rate of employment in agriculture sector is continuously falling due to the implementation of modern technology for the farming. In the United States of America, the percentage of the job has dropped from 21 percent to less than 2 percent in between 1930 and 2010 (Invested Development 2013). In case of Australia, the employment rate in agriculture industry has fallen from 14 percent to 3 percent from 1901 to 2009 (Australia n.d.).
There have been a significant number of innovations in mobile/IT and energy sector which has influenced the method of farming. For example, forming sensors, smart power systems, proper irrigation gears, and agriculture software are readily available for the modern farmers. The technology also has a negative impact on the agriculture sector, for example, increasing rate of unemployment, environmental damage, and much more. In past few decades, modern technology has improved the service delivery in the agriculture sector. Farmers use the latest technology efficiently to improve the service delivery and communication process in the agriculture sector. The governments are taking advantage of most recent and mobile technology for connecting farmers with better sources and providing them the alternate technique of service delivery (Ruiz-Garcia et al. 2009).
A drone is an aircraft, which is operated without a human pilot aboard, they also know an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The components of UAV include drone, a controller on the ground, and communication between the two devices. A UAV can be operated with different options such as a human-operated remote controller, or autonomously through a computer system. In 1959, the US Air Force decided to use a drone in war zones because they were concerned about losing pilots (Crutsinger, Short and Sollenberger 2016). After that, the UAVs were used by various countries in different hostile situations. With the popularity of mass usage of internet and smartphones, many companies started using drones in diverse sectors such as agriculture, photography, data collection and much more. In modern times, drones are being personally used by people for various usages such as photography, video recording and other. The corporations are introducing cheaper and capable UAV devices which can be used in different industries other than military (Baumuller 2016).
Usage of Drones in Agriculture Sector
Drones or UAVs are commercially being used since the 1980s; nowadays, the role of drones is increasing because the practical applications for UAVs in the agriculture sector are proliferating. Due to robust investment and quickly developing technology, corporations are making new operations for drones in the agriculture sector. As per a research conducted by PwC in recent drone business, the drone-powered solutions in industries are valued more than $127 billion. As per the study, the drones assist farmers into addressing several agricultural challenges (Mazur 2016). As per the experts, the world population will reach 9 billion by 2050 and the agrarian consumption will augment around 70 percent. Following are few examples of UAVs usage in the agriculture industry, which assist the farmers in fulfilling the growing demand for agrarian consumption (Logan 2017).
It is an agriculture management model which is based on the detecting, assessing and responding to variability in crops. Snow (2017) provided that Precision agriculture usage various details, area-specific information to manage the production of crops such as water, nitrogen, and insecticides. The drones provide agriculturalist and researchers ability locate a precise position in fields to create maps which measure various things such as crop yield, biological material, humidity levels, nitrogen level and much more. Following are the usage of UAV in precision agriculture:
- Crop Health Monitoring (Scouting): The drones can monitor yields with various sensors, such as Normalised Difference Vegetative Index or near-infrared. This is the primary way of UAVs used by the farmers in the agriculture The popular drones use for this purpose includes SenseFly eBee SQ or PrecisionHawk Lancaster 5, which costs around $10,500 and $12,000 respectively (Meola 2017). Due to a recent update in SenseFly’s eBee Ag, the monitoring area for drone observing has increased significantly. It detects the information which human eye cannot see which benefit farmers into improving their crop’s quality.
- Irrigation Equipment Monitoring: Most of the large farmer’s usage many irrigation pivots which are hard to keep track cause they spread throughout the fields. After the crops gain certain height, it became difficult for farmers to inspect the nozzles and sprinkles the water on irrigation equipment. The drones can be used by farmers to avoid these issues in their fields (Grassi 2014).
- Mid-Field Weed Identification: most of the UAVs use sensors such as NDVI which applies image processing to make a weed map. The agriculturalists use such information to recognise intensity weed propagation regions from healthy crops.
- Variable-Rate Fertility: While determining nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the fields, experts believe that satellite ground imagery is more practical, along with soil sampling. But, many drones such as Agribotix, uses NDVI sensors to provide instant information regarding field quality which can be utilised for the determination of the power of nutrients in fields (Thomasson 2015).
- Cattle Herd Monitoring: Another use of a drone is monitoring of cattle from overhead, it became easier for farmers to use UAV to herds monitoring. The drones are especially more useful in the night because they can use night vision or thermal cameras which are way better than human monitoring (Bloss 2014).
There are several drones designed by companies to use them in spraying liquid insecticides, fertilizers, and herbicides over the fields. The example of spraying drones includes ZEROTECH Guardian-Z10 and Yamaha RMAX. In Japan, the unmanned spray helicopters are being used for years, but in case of the United States, the government recently permitted RMAX (Doherty, Heintz and Kvarnstrom 2013). According to AUVSI, a non-profit organisation for drone development, the use of UAVs in spraying pesticides and fertilizers is safer and efficient way of managing crops.
Many entrepreneurs have formed a drone-planting system which can achieve an uptake rate of 75 percent, and they can reduce the planting expenses by 85 percent. These drones can shoot pods directly into the ground which contain seeds and plant nutritious. According to the research of Grossman (2017), many companies such as BioCarbon Engineering can speed up the process of planting by using drones instead of human beings. BioCarbon has claimed that their drones can plant 100,000 trees in a single day. They have performed several tests of planning trees in abandoned mines of England and Australia which has been successful; with decent success, the drones will be able to plant 1 billion trees in a year.
For farmers, it is significantly necessary to evaluate the quality and health of their crops for spotting bacterial or fungal infections on the plants. The farmers can use regular and near-infrared light to scan their plant, which is available in new drones. The drones also provide aerial views of the field which allow farmers to measure more yields in less time. According to George et al. (2013), the UAV can recognise which plants are reflecting the various amount of green and NIR light. The data from such drones can be utilising in producing a multispectral image of the fields which makes it easier to track changes in crops and provide information about their health. Farmers can use this information in a speedy response which can protect the entire plantation. The farmers will be able to provide remedies in the field as soon as the disease in crops is revealed. In case the farmer is not able to protect the field, the data collected through drone can be efficiently used at the time insurance claim.
There are several drones available in the market with hyperspectral, multispectral and thermal sensors; this UAV can recognise the part of the file which is dry and requires development. As per Handwerk (2013), this information can be used by farmers to improve the quality of their crops by adequately providing them needed nutrition. Furthermore, once the plant starts growing, the UAVs can calculate the vegetation index, which includes information regarding relative density and health of the plant. It also provides details regarding heat signature, the energy produced by plant and heat created in the field.
Insurance Claim Forensics
Most of the modern insurance corporations use 3D drone imaginary to measure the environment. The companies collect images from various perspectives and measure them calculate the impact of the environment. As per Barta (2016), this information can be beneficial for the insurance companies at the time of settlement of insurance claim.
Benefit of Drone Technology in Agriculture Industry
Due to the modernisation of technology, drones provide various advantages to current farmers. Following are few examples of benefit g UAV in the agriculture industry.
Taking an aerial image of field using a drone cost an average of $2 per acre; farmers can easily pay this amount for the data provided by drone images (Siebert and Teizer 2014). The prices of drones are reducing as well with the introduction of personal drones such as DJI Spark.
One of the primary benefits of UAV is that it is easy to use and it saves a significant amount of time. A drone can scout the crop fields more rapidly and efficiently than compared with tractors. The UAV also allow farmers to gain critical information at a considerably less amount of time, such as nutrition rate, dry areas or weed growth.
Ease of Use
With the introduction of personal use drones, the use of UAV has become significantly simple. Farmers can learn to operate drones themselves which reducing their time and cost.
The farmers can use drones for monitoring their fields; the UAV provide an overhead aerial view which covers a large area of ground in a single viewing. The growers can monitor cattle, weed growth, a disease in the crop, inventories, the requirement of water and much more. This information assists the farmers in growing healthy and better quality crops.
Modern drones contain various sensors such as thermal, hyperspectral, and multispectral, which provide high-quality detail to farmers which cannot be accessed through naked eyes. This information benefits growers by improving the quality of their crops or efficiently claims insurance in case of failure.
As per the article published by Successful Farming in 2016, in the beginning, farmers hesitated regarding drones (Bedord 2016). The drones provide various services to farmers who cannot be accessible to ground level. Slowly but surely, drone technology is revolutionising the agriculture industry by offering multiple benefits to growers. The research of PwC provided that the drone-powered solutions in industries are valued more than $127 billion. The study conducted by MarketInsightsReports provided that the agricultural drone market might be valued around $4.2 billion by 2022 (Reagan 2017). As per the statistics provided by Successful Farming:
- 9 percent of own industry UAV
- 3 percent will buy in next 12 months
- 17 percent of industry will purchase in next 1 to 2 years
- 33 percent will buy after two or more years
- 38 percent did not want to buy a drone for agriculture purposes
In 2015, the drone industry sees a growth because the Federal Aviation Administration provided new exemptions to companies for operating drones in the United States of America. In 2016, more than 2.2 million drones unite were sold worldwide, and profit raised 36 percent to $4.5 billion.
Modern corporations have industrialised most of the farming sector; the companies grow the single crop in excessive quantity to fulfill the requirement of the public. The drone technology benefits the growers by providing various services such as analysis of fields, cost-benefit, ease of use, monitoring of crops and much more (Freeman and Freeland 2014). Following are multiple stakeholders’ perspectives for drone technology requirement:
- Farmer: The critical stakeholder is the grower who cultivates the crops. The drone technology is a requirement for farmers due to its various benefits such as high-quality analysis of field at low cost, easy to use technology, monitoring different aspects of the area, saving time and much
- Shareholders: The shareholders of the agriculture firms are benefited from drone technology because it augments the revenue of the company.
- Environment: Drones are small in size and does not require high power machinery to work which did not increase pollution in the atmosphere.
- Government: To properly use a drone, various approvals are necessary. But, more and more countries governments are accepting the drone regulations such as new exemptions provided by Federal Aviation Administration.
- Customers: Drones benefit farmers by increasing the quality and reducing the cost of crops. The customers are can easily get nutritious crops at lower prices.
Most of the governments have implemented strict regulation over drone usage to protect the public from unwanted injury. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires people to register the drone which is weight more than 8 ounces (Bennett 2014). In Australia, Civil Aviation Safety Regulations provide the provisions regarding drone usage. In order to use a drone weight more than 2 kilograms for commercial purposes in Australia, users are required to get an RPA operator’s certificate (ReOC) (Kollmorgen 2017). The regulations regarding agriculture use of drone are a little bit more flexible which encourage the farmers. The flexible rule is required to be implemented by the government to increase the usage of drones in the agriculture sector.
Drawbacks of Drone Technology
The advancement in technology has increased security in the usage of drones, but the technology is not perfect. There have been various cases with shows that drones can be dangerous for the safety of public or property (Omand, Wheeler and Schulte 2014).
Most of the government has rigid regulations regarding usage of drone which require people to get a license for drone usage. These rules limit the use of a drone in commercial proposes, and it also discourages people from using drone technology for agriculture purposes.
Mistake in Technology
Although, the drones can determine high-quality information is less time but just like any other technology it can be disrupted due to several reasons. The quality of data collected by UAV can be reduced due to factors such as low WIFI speed, adverse environmental conditions, and failure of parts.
The drone uses an internet connection to share information with the user which means it can be hacked. The cybercriminals can hack the drone and use them to their advantage which can be dangerous for the safety of the public (Hartmann and Steup 2013).
Following are few suggestions which can improve the process of drone use in agriculture sector:
- The government should establish more flexible regulations regarding drone uses in the agriculture The rules should encourage the small farmer to use drones in their fields which can benefit them by reducing cost and improving the quality of their crops.
- The companies should manufacture cheap UAV for agriculture purposes which can be bought by small growers. These drones will increase the usage of UAV in the agriculture
- The government should establish drone training programs for farmers to teach them usage of UAV. These programs will encourage the growers to use drones in their activities which will eventually reduce their cost and improve the quality of crops.
- Better security regulation can be implemented to ensure the security in the connection between drone and controller, to avoid cybercriminals from hacking the UAVs.
In conclusion, many of the technological advancements have assisted in augmenting the growth of agriculture industry. The use of drones for various farming purposes has become popular in past few years. Many growers use UAVs for multiple purposes such as spraying fertilisers, planting seeds, irrigation, precision agriculture and health analysis of crops. The benefit of using drones include the high quality of imagery, lower cost usage, saving time, easy to use and better monitoring of fields. With various benefits, there are several shortcomings of drones as well such as vulnerable to hacking, strict government regulations, technological defaults, and dangerous for public safety. The government can implement flexible rules and drone training programs to promote the usage of drone which can improve the agriculture process.
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