Drone: A smart technology for precision agriculture

Drone is a pilot-less remote control aircraft that is used for aerial inspection or targeted bombing in an area. Drone is not a new technology but it was originated nearly a century ago, they also termed as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and commonly known as drones.

termed as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and commonly known as drone

History directly linked them with World War I era. Mostly, they are controlled by remote to save the human pilots normally used in fighter jets from any kind of harm during accident or crash. Today, the drones are used in numerous fields of life related to our personal use to commercial & humanitarian relief as well.

Drone can also be used in military operations (like surveillance and targeting bombing of an area), carrying weapons and foodstuff for army etc. In daily normal life, they can also be used in marketing like home delivery of your products. Now, with improved technology in field of drone, they can also be efficiently use in the field of agriculture in various ways.

Drone and agriculture

Now a days, different types of agricultural drones are available in the market that can easily and efficiently perform different laborious fields operations, that would provide a great facility to reduce labour and thus to lower the input cost of the farmers.

They can be used for different farm operations like to monitor the crop situation, to carry different kinds of pesticides and weedicides and also to spray over the field, to irrigate the crop and to check the nutritious status of the cop and soil as well. This technology is so many farmers friendly that they can easily understand and operate this technology in their fields.

Physically when we talk about drone, they are well equipped with sensors and digital imaging ability. They can fly from few meters up to 40 km or 25 miles away from the established cropped area of the farmer and can judge the crop situation and take the real images of the growing area with the help of the high quality digital cameras. In addition, the famers can also monitor the crop situation lively in their hand held tabs at the time when drones are in air.

Moreover, they can make film or pictures of the cropped area that help the farmers to judge their crop situation in terms of their nutritional deficiency or insect pest attack. Farmer has a bird’s eye view that can help to suggest agricultural operations at the right time in order to get optimum/maximum production and farm efficiency. In addition to, drones give different pictures after surveying periodically that set by farmer. As the science is being progress that result in the improvement of new technology.

We can see its effect in the field of agriculture too as today’s drones have the ability enough to cover more or huge cropped area in a very short time (few hours) that is not possible for one farmer to cover it in one day.

They can fly from few meters up to 40 km or 25 miles away from the established cropped area of the farmer and can judge the crop situation and take the real images of the growing area with the help of the high quality digital cameras

As we know, the farmer requires an authentic, fresh and current statistics regarding to crop fitness and soil fertility. In this scenario, agricultural drones are quite useful to collect soil and crop data of particular agricultural field. Agricultural drones are equipped with sensors to check the recent soil fertility status. They can also be used to determine NPK level of soil for crop growing in the field of the farmer.

Besides these, presence of soil life can easily be judged by using this advanced technology.  Furthermore agricultural drones can give 3-D result for early soil analysis for orderly planting time, planting pattern, irrigation program and managing nutrient status as well. The aerial view of the cropped area can also help to view the patchy areas of crop and fertilizer can be applied accordingly.

The plants are sessile so they are directly affected by daily seasonal variations or by climate change. In this situation, drones are being used to manage the crops. As climate is being changed and has direct affiliation with crop yield, it is a serious threat to our production that is going to decline by natural disorder.

Today the loss is comparatively low and also bearable but in near future, risk and unreliability in crop production will touch the sky that will cause to lower the production and hunger globally. It may result in starvation which is an alarming situation in agriculture of the world.

Hence it is the right time to use “4 R” concept for precision agriculture to make it protected from the climate change. For this, right amount should be given to crop at right place at right time with right method. Keeping in view the above scenario, drone technology seems to be inevitable for sustainability of agro ecosystem.

Scientist revealed or proved that nutrient deficiency is responsible for yield restriction, whilst changing agro eco-system has also remarkable impact on crop production. It is not book stuffs but also admitted by the farmer. We generally apply nutrients to the crop exogenously as foliar spray to cover its deficiency but excess application may injure to crop.

For this, firstly we capture the picture of field from above by using drone and then spray only the patchy areas. By adopting drone Technology, we can save both time & cost. These can also provide labor relaxation. We can also minimize nutrient’s amount by application of required nutrients just to the needy areas of the field and thus can enhance nutrient use efficiency.

Drones are used to apply different sprays like pesticides or weedicides just on upper part of the plant as foliar spray, by which we can minimize the cost and also prevent the poisonous sprays to reach or to touch the soil of the field. Thus this technology proves itself beneficial for controlling ground water pollution.

Water is basic necessity of life. Living organism can’t survive without using it. Similarly in the field of agriculture, water has central position. Plant body performs many operations like seed germination, breaking dormancy, photosynthesis, translocation of metabolites like protein & starch and metabolism. In all these process, water proves an essential substrate for plant body.

It was very bad to say that water is being polluted by different means. I am very regret to say that various human activities are the major sources by which water is being contaminated. Here we can easily predict that, in near future, plant will face serious water stress.

Numerous agro ecological changes that may in result of ; a) shortage of water supply  b) increase water demand and  c) retardation of water quality enhanced the water scarcity in developing countries. In this critical situation, drones can be more helpful. As the drone are outfitted with thermal sensor, that can use to enhance (WUE) water use efficiency by applying water only in dry/needy or patchy areas of the field.

With the help of Agricultural drones, growth and untimely yield has been improved by different means but here many questions arise related to its security issues. As we use drones to monitoring the crop (verities) growth stages and for data collection of particular area.

But what would be the scenario if the same technology used by opponent farmer to steal the secrets of one farmer. Farmers face many difficulties when they try to use drone in different farm operations like to irrigate or monitor the crop growth in windy or dusty areas.  The use of drone technology is not much effective especially when this machinery used in the land of high rainfall.

This article is jointly written by By M. Talha Aslam, Dr. Imran Khan, Dr. M. Umer Chattha, Dr. Shakeel A. Anjum

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