Drone surveying a farm
Data collection is a crucial aspect of farm management and growth. In the past, farmers have employed weak data collection tools that led to poor decisions and huge losses. Even for large scale growers who engaged experts in the field in collecting accurate data, such data collection would take months to collect. By the time the data was ready for use, it had become irrelevant.
Since the early 80’s when the first aerial unmanned drones were put into commercial use, there has been an increasing number of farmers using drones in monitoring their crop production. Now, the unmanned aerial vehicle has become a data collection tool of choice in the agribusiness sector. In the ensuing discussion, we shall analyze the effectiveness of the use of the unmanned aerial vehicle to collect crop data.
Importance of UAVs In Crop Data Collection
The modern Nigerian farmer faces various challenges during the crop cycles. These include climate changes, resistant weeds and pests, and water scarcity. On the farm, trials, yield measurements, forage quality evaluation, weed control effectiveness, and plant nutrient status are some of the popular data collected and used to measure these risks. One method used to collect this data relies on gadgets such as portable meters, test strips, manual stand counts, chlorophyll meters, seed sampling, and color charts for plant tissues. These gadgets have limited accuracy, are cumbersome to operate, require an investment in the needed human expert to operate them and therefore subject to human error.
With the advent of agribusiness technology, these challenges are now addressed and precisely mitigated using high-tech data collection tools such as drones. Such tools utilize GPS and GNSS technologies in zoning and recording data on the large farms. This precise data collection ensures the use of accurate data in mitigating risks. This forms the basis of site-specific crop management
Why Use Drones?
Drones have inbuilt sensors, navigation systems and recording devices that single out trouble spots in large farms at a bird’s eye view. They can pick out anomalies that are difficult to see while on the ground. In turn, farmers map these farms according to such historical records as soil analysis, crop rotation and pest infestation. The data collected is of high resolution at an affordable cost. The UAV’s have programs capable of translating the raw data using complex formulas and present practical statistics to the farmer.
The drones capabilities are not limited to just pinpointing problem areas. They are useful in monitoring ambitious growth plans undertaken by farmers. Such plans include data collection on the symbiotic relationship of keeping bees in a horticultural farm.
Real-Time Crop Data Collection
The competitive advantage in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to collect crop data lies in the drones’ spontaneity. Farmers deploy unmanned aerial vehicles on demand. They stream real-time data directly to the decision making persons for quick action. Alternatively, the data is saved in a microchip inside the drone. These are inexpensive alternatives in precision farming.
Convenience of UAVs
These lightweight equipment weigh less than 20kgs. A farmer operates the drone using wireless remote control. Alternatively, the farmer can program the drone to collect data on a particular route. They cover a large piece of land in a single flight. Although a substantial capital investment is needed to acquire drones, with price ranging from as low as $1,500 to more than $30,000 depending on the features. This expenditure can easily be paid back in one crop production cycle. They are convenient, safe, reliable and easy to use.
UAVs Application in Crop Data Collection
The following are some of the ways in with unmanned aerial vehicles are used in crop data collection:
- The extent of pest and fungal infestation
- Figures relating to plant anomalies, leaf coverage, flowering, the impact of insecticide application
- Plant Growth Surveillance – Monitor the weather conditions;
- Irrigation – Drones are single out fields where water levels need to be increased or reduced. Upon the crop growth, the drones collect data relating to plant density, health and heat emission.
Droned can be used to determine the impact of pest infestation on the flowering plants of in a farm. To do this, they are flown over a wide acreage farm to take aerial pictures of the field. These pictures are either streamlined to a control room computer or stored in a microchip for further analysis. The analysis results in a crop health map with graphics showing the impact of the pest invasion.
When sending out a human expert to survey the field proves risky, drones become the preferred option of crop data collection. For example, in the event of flooding, a dam supporting a large farm may overflow. Such a dam is at risk of collapse. Farmers send out drones to assess the flooded areas.
The Future of Crop Data Collection
A lot of Nigerian farmers, especially small-scale farmers have been skeptical about adopting the use of drones in crop data collection. They argued that the uncertainty in commodity prices coupled with tight margins make this option far-fetched. Farmers have also expressed concern for the lack of privacy in using drones.
However, the statistics from the 2016 Technology in Ag Study indicates that at least 49% of growers would consider hiring a drone service. This compensates for the 38% of growers who did not plan to purchase a drone, also farmers could go around the acquisition cost by renting drones. The unmanned aerial vehicles use in crop data collection is therefore expected to increase. This increase will be at a much slower pace because of the tough economic conditions prevailing in the agribusiness industry. The mechanization of farms makes the drones an economical option. They now have advance data gathering features and software packages that are updated regularly.
Smart crop management systems call for farmers to embrace new technology. In the event of an emergency, a farmer with limited technical knowledge is better off utilizing drones to mitigate risks. The collection of data using drones facilitates precision farming in boosting crop production. With improvements in the features, the drones are expected to be affordable even to the small-scale farmer.
source – https://www.farmmanagement.pro/the-use-of-unmanned-aerial-vehicle-to-collect-crop-data/