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What are Drones Doing in Agriculture?

Drones are almost everywhere. There was a time when they were most closely associated with military applications but today, drones are also used in:

  • Photography - real estate, land surveys and even in the world of cinema
  • Disaster zone mapping and providing relief
  • Meteorology
  • Bird control near airports and
  • Agriculture too

Agriculture drones

As the term denotes, these are unmanned airborne vehicles that are meant to be used solely for agriculture purposes. These drones can be deployed for:

  • Capturing images and condition of fields, crops, soil, water etc
  • Monitoring crop growth
  • Infestations in crops and 
  • Assessing the need for application of fertilisers and other nutrients too

Benefits of agriculture drones

One of the most obvious benefits to any farmer is speed. An agriculture drone or ag drone can cover acres and acres of fields in no time at all. Depending on the size and flight capability of the ag drone, it can quickly encompass large tracts of land and provide the farmer with real-time data and they can make more effective decisions. 

Sophisticated technology can also give farmers the opportunity to exploit the IoT or internet of things to optimise:

  • Application of pesticides, nutrients and fertilisers
  • Control water supply to the crops
  • Crop monitoring as well

Timely and even proactive action for crop protection can go a long way in enhancing productivity. With the drone’s ability to monitor crops and other indices, a farmer can use all inputs more efficiently. 

Growing market

According to a study, ag drones are set to account for $6244.5 million in 2021–2028 and have touched $1480.5 million in the year 2020. India is seeing growing interest in and use of agriculture drones as well. 

Agriculture technology is a burgeoning space in India today and farmers are able to use this technology to mitigate the challenges set by climate change, shrinking resources and multiple market / economic forces too. 

The Agriculture Insurance Company of India Limited (AIC) is looking at ag drones to help settle agriculture insurance claims as quickly as possible. This is especially helpful when farmers are dealing with challenges due to natural calamities and are looking at insurance support to tide over the bad times. 

India is also looking at global partnerships to enhance ag drone capabilities. For instance, in November, 2021, Israel and India entered into an agriculture deal that will see collaboration and mutual support in developing next-gen technology, including drones, to support agriculture in India. 

Drones are capable of reducing the time taken to survey lands for agriculture and this benefit is what ‘The Drone Destination’ is promising in the area of precision farming. Drone training has started in Haryana and expansion plans have been drawn up already.

Under the aegis of the ‘Make in India’ initiative, Garuda Aerospace is manufacturing around 1000 ag drones which will help farmers reduce the time, capital and effort spent on spraying fertilisers. 

Yes, there is work that is ongoing in the use of drones in agriculture but with an ever increasing need to mitigate multiple types of challenges, perhaps drones will give Indian agriculture a stronger opportunity to ‘rise above’ in more ways than one.