THE CONCEPT of drones is nearly a century old. It is also known as UAVs or unnamed aerial vehicles. The history of drones started as early as World War 1, but they werent developed in nearest until the 1970s, when western militaries started to look for new ways to keep save their human pilots from harm.


Now the drone technology is transforming to other industries as well. This technology commercially uses since 1980s. However, practical applications of drones are expanding faster than ever in a variety of industries.


Three years ago common people had no idea about these flying machines. Now, it does have become one of the worlds most publicized and fascinating technologies in a wide range of professions. The international drone market has grown considerably in the past few years building on their exhibition and usefulness to agriculturalists. However, agricultural sector will be dominating in drone global market.


Drone Technology and Agriculture


Crop Monitoring


Now-a-days agro-ecosystems are facing serious threats and risks associated with crop production. These risks and uncertainties in crop production will be more in future as global climate is changing day by day. Climate change will put huge pressure on natural resources and livelihood management. The productivity of major crop will undergo in shuffling phase due to scarcity of resources and country will face dilemma of food insecurity. So, there is urgent need of use of “4 R” principles of precision farming in order to make our agricultural systems less vulnerable to climate change. The right amount of inputs should be applied at right time in right place with the help of right method. All these scenarios need drones to increase efficacy of resources in agro-ecosystem and sustain higher production of crops.


Soil and Field Analysis


Farmers want to have accurate and up-to-date information on crops health and land fertility status. In this context, drones are very effective tools to get all these information. Moreover, drones can help in generation of accurate 3-D maps for early soil analysis in order to optimize planting patterns, irrigation scheduling and nutrients management.


Crop spraying


Nutrient stress in filed crops is a major yield limiting constraint. Whereas, climate change has pronounced this limiting factor more. However, foliar spray is prompt solution when crop is in severe nutrient stress. But, it is not wise to spray all fields when there is deficiency in some patches. Nonetheless, use of drones for exogenous application of nutrients to specified area is time, cost and nutrients quantity saving technique. Exogenous application of these nutrients on crops definitely improvestheir efficacy and fulfill crop requirement. Aerial spraying with drones is very effective to control under-ground water pollution. This is also a very instant approach to compensate deficiency of nutrient due to unavailability of timely sources.


Irrigation


Water is very precious gift of Allah Almighty for all living organism. In agriculture, water is central pillar of crop husbandry. It has prime role in biosynthesis and translocation of starch, andhelps in transportation of nutrients from soil to plant body. But availability of water is being limited due to change in climate. Moreover, climate change is likely to; a) Increase water demand b) Shrinking water supplies and c) Damaging water quality. In the face of climate change, droneshave been equipped with hyper spectral, multispectral, or thermal sensors. These sensorscan identify any part of field which are dry or need improvements.


Health Assessment


Its essential to assess crop health and spot bacterial or fungal infections on trees. As soon as a sickness is discovered, farmers can apply and monitor remedies more efficiently.


Way forward


It is need of time to make this technology accessible for common famers of Pakistan. So following things should be done by Govt. of Pakistan;


Import this technology from developed countries and subsidies it so farmer can easily purchase them


Create awareness among masses and explore its potential benefits


Develop capacity of stakeholders including academia, researchers, extensionists and farmers


Demonstrate this technology at farmer field


Give crop insurance to farmers


The author is a scholar at Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.