Food for Thought: Drones and Their Benefits to Agricultural Operators
Drones, drones, drones. In the past decade or so, drone technologies and the uses for drones within industries including mining, construction, engineering, and more has exploded. While drones are now much more in the public eye, there is one industry that has flown under the radar (excuse the pun) agriculture. Drones now have multiple capabilities that can improve the modern-day Ag operation, and this is not limited to large-scale agricultural properties run by multi-billion dollar corporations.
Let's look at two areas that drones offer benefits to agricultural operations. First, drones are excellent options for soil and field analysis both before and after planting. Prior to planting, drones can use hyperspectral technology to create high-resolution, 3-D soil maps. Post- processing, these soil maps reveal invaluable information related to soil health and moisture content. Armed with this knowledge, Ag operators can adjust their planting plans as necessary to experience a more productive growing season.
Beyond planning for planting, drones offer unique benefits related to crop monitoring and management up until harvest time. The most essential of these involves the use of a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to reveal variations in photosynthetic activity which is a useful proxy for plant health. At the field scale, this can reveal areas that are stressed and under performing—before it becomes obvious to the naked eye. Additionally, the high-resolution imagery available using a drone-mounted hyperspectral camera means that different crop types can be identified by their spectral signature—a useful way of finding weeds and other encroaching plants among crops.
Here at Ethos, we are exploring these methods to assist agricultural operations at any scale. These techniques are changing the way small and mid-sized Ag operators manage their properties and are resulting in quicker, more efficient crop monitoring systems. With drone technology advancing every day, we hope to keep pushing the envelope in order to turn new tools into successful growing seasons.