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Why Satellites and Drones are Farmers' Favorites?

Enterprise Technology Review | Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Satellites and drone technologies feature farmer-friendly and cost-effective crop production, enhancing farming bottom lines, and realizing modern agrarians' vision.

FERMONT, CA: The agtech industry is evolving at a rapid pace, creating an ideal opportunity for investors and innovators. Satellite technology and drone techniques can bring about a wave of transformation in the domain of agriculture. The objective is to create agriculture as sustainable as possible to minimize inputs, maximize yields, and eliminate waste as much as possible. This emerging satellite and drone technology empower farmers by helping them prepare against adverse environmental circumstances. The unpredictable weather conditions are among the huge challenges that the farmers are facing.

In addition to monitoring present circumstances, satellite technology can also create precise future predictions. This will assist farmers in precisely understanding what and when to grow, leading to optimum crop yields. The concept of precision farming was opened to farmers by the new satellite-based farming practices. Here are a few advantages in agriculture from satellite-driven information and drone techniques.

Variable Rate Application (VRA)

Several satellite imagery businesses provide prescription maps to optimize the implementation of nitrogen-based on the biomass evaluation during various crop seasons. To improve input effectiveness and field productivity, these VRA prescription maps can be uploaded to the agricultural machinery. However, owing to the complexity of biology and the environment, the precision and reliability of nitrogen detection in different plants need validation. 

Optimized Scouting 

One of the main advantages of drones is their capacity to rapidly and effectively scout farm areas. Rather than having farmers manually assess fields, this technology enables farmers to obtain an instant understanding of their fields' status in shorter periods. With this available data, farmers can make actionable decisions on applying nitrogen and monitoring yields. Farmers are using precision watering sensors and combating the spread of pests by tracking critical intervention areas. 

Enhanced Crop Health

New drone technology collects information very effectively and helps farmers in assessing crop health. Equipped with sensors, drones flying across a field can collect measurements of plant height, by collecting data at both canopy and ground levels. Drones can also create vegetation index images by measuring near-infrared wavelengths through a multispectral sensor, segregating healthy crops from the negatively affected ones. Drones also generate satellite maps that can assist farmers in making fertilizer choices–a significant concern for farmers, as fertilizer accounts up to 50 percent of input expenses. By using high-tech sensors to absorb near-infrared wavelengths, drones create maps that can determine the requirement of phosphorus and nitrogen.

Streamlining Field Irrigation

Thermal cameras can detect cooler, well-watered field areas, and dry and warm patches. This data can be utilized by farmers to modify the irrigation field and prevent the waste of surplus water. This capacity to improve water optimization in drought-stricken regions is particularly important. Drone technology helps to decrease surplus fertilizer that runs into neighboring rivers and streams by enhancing water and fertilizer effectiveness. Less runoff in the water systems reduces the algal blooms and dead zones. Most drones presently available for use in agriculture are very expensive. However, drones can begin to demonstrate their importance in agriculture with fresh innovations and affordability.

Crop Spraying

Distance measuring equipment— ultrasonic echoing and lasers such as those used in light detection and range, or LiDAR, method — allows a drone to adjust altitude with differing topography and geography, thereby avoiding collisions. Drones can, therefore, scan the ground and spray the right amount of liquid, modulating distance from the field and spraying for even coverage in real-time. This results in increased efficiency by reducing the quantity of chemicals penetrating the groundwater. Experts estimate that drones can complete aerial spraying up to five times faster than traditional machinery. 

Crop Monitoring

Vast fields and low crop surveillance effectiveness together generate the greatest barrier for farming. The problems of monitoring are exacerbated by increasingly unpredictable weather conditions that drive the cost of danger and maintenance in the field. Earlier, satellite imagery offered the most advanced form of monitoring where images had to be ordered in advance, which was time taking and imprecise. Today, time-series animations are demonstrating the precise development of a crop and revealing inefficiencies in production, enabling better management of crops.

Identifying Field Performance

Using satellite imagery and information about weather, precipitation, etc., farmers can monitor field performance every week. It enables farmers to compare large-scale farm fields and identify below-average fields to implement treatment actions.

Crop Fertilization

Satellites can help identify cropland areas that need more fertilizer than others in a field. This will help reduce expenses and rationalize the effect of over-fertilization on the environment. Using drones could take this a step further. Once the usual fertilization cycle is over, Earth-orbiting satellite imagery will be able to show where additional fertilizer is needed in a field. A drone may be dispatched to tackle any highlighted issues rapidly. 

Today, low-altitude aerial pictures are one of the most common techniques for identifying soil and plant characteristics. Drones provide real-time, high-quality aerial imagery over agricultural fields compared to satellite imagery. Applications for locating weeds and illnesses, determining soil properties, detecting vegetation variations, and producing precise elevation models with the assistance of drones prove highly feasible.