Fields of Flight: Drone Farming
Around 58% of India’s population depends on agriculture for livelihood, but the sector’s contribution to the GDP has declined. Despite economic growth, agriculture lags in income and technology compared to industry and services. Agricultural drones are emerging as innovative technology in Indian agriculture, aiding in crop monitoring, resource optimization, and harvesting. The regulatory framework for drones reflects a positive approach, aligning with the growth of the agricultural sector.
What is Drone?
A Dynamic Remotely Operated Navigation Equipment (DRONE), also known as UAV, can autonomously fly using GPS coordinates or be manually controlled via remote or smartphone. With sensors, drones provide real-time, accurate information, addressing challenges in agriculture like labor scarcity, chemical exposure, and field risks. As a green technology, drones are becoming crucial in precision agriculture, promoting sustainability. The Ministry of Civil Aviation and Director General of Civil Aviation permit drone operations through conditional exemption route.
What is precision farming?
Precision farming is a smart approach to farming where we use precise amounts of inputs like water, fertilizers, and pesticides. By doing this carefully, we can get better crop yields compared to traditional farming methods. It involves use of technology and information to optimize farming practices, aiming to increase efficiency, improve product quality, save resources, and protect the environment. In simple terms, precision farming helps farmers grow more and better crops while using resources wisely.
Sensor Technologies used in Drone
Drones use different sensors designed for specific tasks, especially in farming. The sensors are designed to be sensitive to specific bands of electromagnetic waves, with key applications outlined below:
Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) Band:
Counting the number of plants, modeling elevation, and visually inspecting crop fields.
Near Infra-Red (NIR) Band:
Applied in water management, erosion analysis, plant counting, soil moisture analysis, and assessment of crop health.
Red Edge Band (RE):
Used for plant counting, water management, and crop health assessment.
Thermal Infra-Red Band:
Applicable in irrigation scheduling, analyzing plant physiology, and forecasting crop yields.
By strategically utilizing sensors attuned to these electromagnetic bands, drones play a crucial role in gathering specific data for diverse agricultural applications, enhancing precision and efficiency in farm management.
Drone Vs Satellite
Drones have an edge over satellites because they can be used anytime, unlike satellites with fixed schedules. This means drones give real-time data with more detail and fewer errors. To improve accuracy and avoid unnecessary flights, we can combine drone data with satellite data. In short, drone data complements satellite data effectively.
APPLICATIONS OF DRONES IN AGRICULTURE
There are various applications of drones in agriculture which are briefly discussed below:
- Soil and field analysis: Drones equipped with sensors analyze soil and field conditions, including moisture, nutrients, and fertility levels. This information helps to plan crop patterns, irrigation schedules, and fertilizer applications, considering the spatial variability of crop growth and field conditions.
- Planting crops and trees: Drones provide an economical and labor-efficient method for planting crops, replacing tractors, and cutting fuel usage and emissions. Using biodegradable seed pods or seed bombs, drones facilitate tree and crop planting in remote areas.
- Crop monitoring: Drones offer a simple and effective way to monitor crops throughout the season, allowing timely actions to prevent yield loss.
- Weed identification: Drones can be employed to detect weeds in the field, allowing for their timely removal to prevent competition for resources with the main crop.
- Crop spraying: Drones enable precise spraying of chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides, adapting to crop conditions and pest severity. Promotes precision agriculture, enhancing chemical efficiency and reducing environmental impact by minimizing soil and water pollution. Drones offer a safe alternative for spraying tall crops, eliminating risks associated with imbalanced tractor machinery.
- Livestock Management: Utilizing drones in livestock management is beneficial. Equipped with high-resolution infrared cameras, drones swiftly detect diseased animals based on their heat signatures.
- Geofencing or protecting the field from animal damage: Drones with thermal cameras are effective in detecting animals or humans at night, offering enhanced field protection from potential damage.