What are Drones?
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) also known as drones have become one of the world’s most merchandised and interesting technologies, where it is used in many professions such as journalism to humanitarian aid work. Farmers can get access to information and tools to manage the mechanization in the field. In addition, it is also easy for the farmers to measure, evaluate the crop practices that need to be followed and achieve the assumed productivity by following the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) with the information that is provided by the drone before the crop production and the farmer can manage the limited resources wisely and obtain qualitative and quantitative crop yield.
UAV’s are the natural advancements from macro to micro, from large scale to small scale farms which is more advantageous than the traditional remote sensing methods. This technology helps to collect high-resolution images below and above the cloud level with more comprehensive details than the satellite imagery which is used by most of the developing countries. These are easy to access, which gives real-time precise data and this technology is becoming less expensive where it could be reached out to anyone.
Uses of Drones in Agriculture in India
The use of Drones in Agriculture research is increasing. A drone helps farmers to find the problems that are not visible at the ground level and helps to monitor the problems at the early crop stages. Drone technology helps in the analysis of soil and field conditions. They provide 3-D maps for soil analysis that helps in planning the cropping patterns and helps to provide irrigation and crop growth, which is useful for better management of the soil nitrogen levels. Drones help in decreasing the planting cost to 85% where this system shoots the pods with seeds and plant nutrients into the soil, providing the plants all the necessary nutrients to sustain life.
Drones can scan the field area and spray the necessary amount of liquid, modulating distance from the ground and provide real-time spraying for even crop coverage. This increases the efficiency with the reduction of chemical usage that penetrates into the groundwater. Experts estimate the aerial spraying is completed five times faster with drones than the traditional machinery. Vast field and low efficiency in crop monitoring create farmers with large obstacles. Monitoring challenges are getting worse by unpredictable weather conditions, which drive risk and field maintenance costs. Earlier, satellite imagery offered the most advanced form of monitoring. However, there are drawbacks where images had to be ordered in advance which is taken only once and were imprecise. These are costly were many farmers suffer. Nowadays, agriculture drone technology helps in time series animations that show precise development and reveal the inefficiencies, enabling better crop management and production.
Drones in Agrifarming
Drones help to identify the dry parts of the field and in addition, help in the calculation of vegetative index that describes the relative density, crop health and show the amount of heat or energy that the crop emits. Furthermore, drones also help to access the plant’s health by scanning the visible and near infra-red lights that the plant reflects. This helps to track the health of the plants and helps to monitor remedies if any, at the early stages in large orchards and increase the plant’s ability to overcome problems. With the use of drone technologies, the farmers can monitor and manage the production technologies of the crop and achieve the estimated productivity.
The efficiency of Drones in Agri-farming
Drones monitor the livestock population and fisheries and useful in surveying, planning, estimating, stockpiling, accessing crop damage and scientific research. Drones help to scout the crop readily at the ground level. The specialized sensors collect the multispectral images which generate the spectral reflectance bands. These bands help to calculate the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), a Leaf Area Index (LAI) or a Photochemical Reflectance Index (PRI), which are not visible by the human’s eye and are possible only through this technology.
Remote sensing or drone-based imagery help in sampling, pre-processing, classification and post-processing of captured images to get greater accuracy. Further, applications are to accurately evaluate crop losses, the spread of disease, monitor biodiversity, the impact of agro-ecology, etc. All of this is a boon for relevant crop planning and guide farmers in attendant efforts, so as to make their enterprise sustainable economically and environmental terms.
Future scope of Drone technology in Indian Agriculture
- Presently, India is producing more than 200 metric tons of food grains which make India self-sustained in food production. Even though, only the quantity is not enough to meet global agricultural markets. Excellent quality, as well as high productivity, is a key factor to compete with each other where there is a need for Precision Farming in India.
- Drone technology also helps in mapping and imaging the livestock herds by using high-resolution infrared cameras enables assessment of its health based on temperature comparison allowing swift identification and treatment of ill animals.
- Sustainable agriculture is a concept in which the drone potential is best reflected and shed light on the future of the agricultural food system, and drones are the key source of the ultimate goal to achieve truly sustainable agriculture.
- Transparency is maintained with respect to farming operations so that the yield can be estimated per acre in any crop. In addition, farmers can be grouped into communities so that they can afford to purchase the drones and utilize them. It is estimated that within 3 years the drones become as cheap as smartphones where anyone who is interested can afford it.
- In addition, clean crop management practices are possible where every aspect of crop production starting from planning of the crop, cropping pattern, plant health, nutrition, pest and disease management, precise harvesting and yield can be estimated thereby increasing productivity.
- Remote sensing along with the drones enables us to get the information on crops, soil and water for mapping and monitoring purposes. With all countries, India also uses space technology and land-based observations for generating regular updates on crop production statistics and providing inputs to enroute sustainable agriculture.
Drones in Agriculture in India
- PM Narendra Modi’s vision of doubling the farmer’s income by 2022 can be achieved by establishing drone technology in Indian agriculture where the farmers use this technology and reduce the production cost with higher yields.
- Prime Minister’s vision of Digital India can be achieved by incorporating drone technology in agriculture for accessing the cropping pattern, soil management for the crops and getting the images of the crops in all the stages thereby increasing farmers’ growth and digitizing the nation.
- Drone technology helps to claim crop insurances within a short period without any delay to the farmers. For example, in Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yojana, drone technology helps to get the images of the crop damages within a short period of time so that the farmers can be insured at the earliest.
Drone technology has great potential in the agriculture industry through its applications in mapping and monitoring the crops, planning the crop schedules, precise crop spraying with required amounts in the required areas, accessing the crop condition. Though. the right strategy is required to leverage this technology. Required solutions must be planned cautiously to enhance the benefits through optimizing the costs. More effective use of inputs is greater crop yield with quality, without polluting the environment. However, questions remain about cost-effectiveness and the most effective ways to use technological tools. The concept “doing the right thing at right place at right time” may have a strong intuitive appeal. Ultimately, the success of Drone technology depends largely on how well and how quickly the knowledge needed to guide the new technologies can be found and also the status of the Indian progressive farmers.