Benefits of Drones in Agriculture: Ways Drones Are Saving Time and Money for Farmers

With the advancement of technology, drones have evolved and are being used in various fields, including agriculture. Many companies are coming up with drone solutions to help farmers in their daily activities. For example, if you have a large farm and want to spray crops, it is much more effective to use drones for this purpose. Drones can also be used for accurate seeds, which no other technology can do so easily. This blog will look at the benefits of drones in agriculture.

Table of Contents

When were Drones First Used in Agriculture?

The history of drones in agriculture is longer than we can think. Can you imagine that about 100 years ago, this type of drone was first introduced in the USA? At that time, USDA and the US Army used drone technology in Dayton, Ohio. 

After that, agricultural drone technology development was envious. Again in 1939, Royal New Zealand Air Force applied drones to spray seeds and mix fertilizer. From then, drone solutions started their way to the present time, and now the benefits drones are giving to the farmers are a tremendous help. 

The future of drones in the most significant industry like farming of the world will bring a revolution. Now commercial drone usage has started, and drone construction also increases.

Benefits of Drones in Agriculture

Different types of drones come into the market. Among them, agricultural drones are unique for many reasons. It has several benefits. They are saving money, reducing labor, increasing production, using fewer chemicals and pesticides, maintaining proper input for land, and many more. 

All of them are not strong enough and not worth mentioning here. That’s why I find some unique but most important benefits of agricultural drones. Let’s have a look at them.

Benefits of Drones in Agriculture

Drones for Agriculture Mapping

Agriculture mapping is also known as surveying the crop field. In the traditional methods, a person had to inspect all the land by himself, but after the evolution of drone software, it can take hundreds and thousands of photos and map your entire field within a concise time. 

These aerial vehicles can take photos from the top to help you know the actual condition of crop health of your entire field in a very short time. Another benefit of drone technology mapping is measuring the input ingredients ratio. 

Some agriculture drone software is so advanced in its sensor and GPS that it can make its flight pattern to ensure proper mapping. Sometimes this unmanned aircraft can provide real-time plant health reports to you. It is one of the key benefits of drone technology to increase agricultural productivity.

Drones for Precision Agriculture

Another major benefit that drones give to the agriculture industry is precision farming. This term is becoming increasingly popular day by day and becoming more in discussion while ‘Drones In Agriculture’ is the topic. But most of us don’t know what precision agriculture is. Precision agriculture is also known as precision farming.

It means a way of crop management or crop monitoring where crop inputs like water and fertilizer give on time and increase farm productivity. Besides these chemical applications, the precision application is also done by drones. It will help the farmer to grow healthy plants in his field and increase crop production. 

Drone applications have some features that can manage autonomous flight, flight time, flight parameters, multispectral sensors, take accurate, real-time info, and many more to help precision agriculture.

Crop Surveillance

Drones for Precision Agriculture

In the agriculture industry, there are so many things to do in the field. All these are not possible by man to do physical visits without the help of others. But now, it is hard to find the perfect person to inspect croplands. 

In this case, the development of agricultural drone types has helped a lot in crop surveillance. The modern drone software features have improved drone navigation, flight time, and many more things.These custom-made drone Software make drone capabilities more surveillance friendly. 

Now drones can do many things like checking the health of plants, crop damage, crop health monitoring, crop diseases, plant conditions, and many more. These features make farm management decisions easy for the farmer. The drone will help you observe all your land very closely with its strong sensor and camera, and you will take steps based on the situation. 

This robotic device can also work with cattle behavior patterns. By doing this, It is also going to make the cattle surveillance job easy and bring a revolution in this sector too.

Crop Condition Report Making

Another major benefit of agricultural drones is their report-making capability. The updated drones have a mighty sensor in them. These sensors can scan the land and also the plant health to bring insightful info to the farmer. 

This info can make a complete report to give complete knowledge of plant physiology. After a certain period, this drone type will make accurate, nearly real-time info about all essential things for the irrigation system. 

These unmanned aircraft can do image processing work like professional image processing software to arrange the crop condition report into a more easy-to-read format or readable format. The aerial surveying by these devices makes a visual prototype report to agricultural producers. 

These things reduce the human workforce and manual labor in the agricultural field. By reducing manual labor, it is giving some economic benefits to agricultural producers.

Drones for Seed Planting

The outdated planting techniques of seed was a result of production inefficiencies. But new-generation technologies like drones make agriculture smart and bring environmental benefits to us. The flight management software makes the drone flight time and pattern accurate. As a result, it becomes very easy to plant seeds of our future crops and get more benefits. 

The way a drone can plant seeds is almost impossible for a human to do. An accurate seed plantation is much more important than any other thing in farming. Nowadays, agricultural consumption has increased by a few times, but the production is not so high. For this reason, we need to find a human alternative for farms, and drones can be that alternative.

Drones in Agriculture Facts

The facts about the agricultural drones mean some different but unique information about it. These facts related to agricultural drones can change your present concept about it. Here I present some of the points for you to make your knowledge update. 

  • The price of drones in agriculture is not as high as we think. Though they are very much productive and helping technology in this sector, and the market for agriculture drones is increasing day by day, the costs of drones decrease by a huge amount. 
  • To some people, drones in agriculture look like a revolution, but some think it is a burden. They have a very narrow concept about this technology. But actually, the person core farm processes will think of it as a blessing after using.
  • You will not believe that agricultural drones can help you in the crop collection process when they ripen. However, this is not true for all types of crops. But it is accurate, and in the future, it will be more improved.
  • The best use of drones in Agriculture is spraying. Drones for agriculture spraying are thought to be the best feature of this device. It goes under a careful preparation process before doing actual spray. 

Types of Drones Used in Agriculture

There are several drones on the market. But all of them are not for irrigation. Some drones are unique in specific sectors. Agricultural drones are different from others. We think that we can categorize drones into three categories based on their features and mastery in various farming sections.

Mapping Master

they are mainly rotary drones. They have more than two copters. This feature makes it more expert in navigation systems. You can easily navigate this drone in any direction, better mapping your land and taking many images of your land. These images make a visual prototype for the farmer. It also can survey the land after any natural disaster. This type of drone takes less time and space to fly.

Spraying Master

They are fixed-winged drones. They have only one propeller to take off from the land and make a visit for almost 20 minutes. They are more battery-friendly drones. They take time and space to take off like an airplane runway.  With the long wings, they can spray a wide area of your land and can lift heavy weights. You can spray the exact amounts of chemicals needed for your crop.

Scanning Master

Drones with powerful scanners and cameras are very much needed for the best agricultural production. These types of drones can scan your land to give you in-depth knowledge about plant health. The cameras have been compelling to make field topography. All these things help proper application of chemicals field health checks.

Variable rate application with spraying drones

*Article sourced from Pix4d Fields

Precision agriculture helped to reduce the cost of a ripening agent by 20% and achieve a 93% accuracy rate in sugarcane production forecast.

Trinoo is a precision agriculture company specializing in drone spraying for agriculture. It has been active since 2018, backed up by 2 years of research in the use of drones for spraying products in sugarcane cultivation. The company is located in the largest sugarcane production area in Colombia – the department of Valle del Cauca. This area has 14 sugarcane mills, where on average 240,000 hectares of sugarcane are harvested per year.

Reducing the sugarcane ripening agents and forecasting the crop production

One of the most important sugar mills in Colombia was looking to improve their efficiency in sugarcane ripening and to have a more accurate forecast of the production of tons of sugarcane per hectare of their fields. They decided to work together with Trinoo and in defining the scope of the project, the two companies established a research protocol that included:

  • the technology to be used for image capture and subsequent processing
  • the time when images should be taken according to crop development
  • the sugarcane varieties to be analyzed, amongst other factors

The project’s goal was to reduce the use of ripening agents and improve the production of tons of sugarcane per hectare forecast. This would reduce production costs per hectare and improve the cash flow of the mill by providing more accurate field production forecasts up to 120 days before harvest.

Project details

LocationValle del Cauca, Colombia
Project durationJanuary – October, 2020
Area covered600 hectares
Number of images30 000
SoftwarePIX4Dfields
HardwareParrot Bluegrass drone for data capture
DJI Agras MG-1P drone for spraying
Parrot Sequoia camera
Image resolution8cm/pix-10cm/pix
DJI Agras MG-1P drone used for spraying of sugarcane

Parrot Bluegrass drone used for data capture (left) and DJI Agras MG-1P drone used for spraying

Applying the ripening agent with aerial spraying drones and variable rate maps

For the maturation process, a ripening agent is applied from the air on the crop leaves. It is induced to concentrate higher levels of sucrose in its stalk, which increases the sugar production per ton of sugarcane harvested per hectare. This work has traditionally been carried out with a uniform dose without taking into account that each lot, given the soil conditions, rainfall regime, and agronomic management presents different levels of development.

Additionally, the standard methodology used so far is the collection of samples in the field that are then analyzed in the laboratory, a process that generates variations due to the difficulty of having a truly representative sample of the entire lot.

Orthomosaic of sugarcane generated in Pix4Dfields

Orthomosaic of sugarcane generated in PIX4Dfields

The maturation process, once combined with precision agriculture can be done with a variable rate, spraying more or less product with a spraying drone, according to the development stage of the crop. Trinoo proposed capturing images with a drone and spectral cameras, processing the images, and creating spraying drone variable rate maps in PIX4Dfields to apply the ripening agent.

Variable-rate application map of sugarcane created in Pix4Dfields

Variable-rate application map of sugarcane created in PIX4Dfields

Developing a sugarcane production forecasting algorithm

For this project, Trinoo developed an algorithm to calculate the tons of sugarcane per hectare from vegetation indices and other variables recommended by Trinoo’s client’s sugar mill harvesting team. In the field, the average size of the plots to be surveyed is 15 hectares, which generates challenges due to latency effects and disconnection of the drone in the farthest points from where the pilot was.

For the development of the forecasting algorithm, the starting point was the vegetation indices generated in PIX4Dfields. Then the patterning process had to be carried out, which is the identification of the spectral signature of each sugarcane variety and its relationship with the tons of sugarcane per hectare (biomass production), including variables such as age and variety of sugarcane being analyzed.

NDVI index map used as a starting point to develop a sugarcane forecasting algorithm

NDVI index map used as a starting point to develop a sugarcane forecasting algorithm

Project results

Reducing the ripening agent cost by 20%

By using precision agriculture methods and spraying drones, Trinoo’s new service generated from this research project resulted in reducing the ripening agent purchase for sugarcane growers by 20%.

“That would mean for our customers – approximately USD 200,000 per year of savings. For the case of the entire sector made up of the 14 sugarcane mills located in Valle del Cauca, it could result in savings of USD 800,000 to USD one million per year”, points out Felipe Barney Arango, Innovation coordinator at Trinoo.

applying the ripening agent with a spraying drone according to the locations identified on the variable rate application map

Trinoo team applying the ripening agent with a spraying drone according to the locations identified on the variable rate application map

Achieving 93% accuracy rate in forecasting the sugarcane production

In the forecast of tons of cane per hectare, Trinoo achieved a 93% accuracy rate. “This information can improve the cash flow projection of the companies, the factory planning, and the sales projection of each sugar mill by being able to anticipate with up to 120 days the number of tons of sugarcane that will arrive from the field. This ultimately generates substantial savings in the planning of labor demand and amount of product to be marketed”, concludes Felipe.

Advantages of PIX4Dfields

For this research Trinoo processed 30000 images with PIX4Dfields, distributed in 26 projects. They found the following software advantages:

  • High usability of the software with very intuitive functions that facilitate the work of the image processing technician.
  • Low demand of computing capacity, allowing to run the software on a computer with only 4 GB RAM at an acceptable speed of image processing.
  • Easy export of reports, results, images, and polygons, facilitating the integration of the work with other processes.
  • The high variety of vegetative indices allowing multiple combinations of analysis.
How Graphic Design Can Take Your Business to the Next Level

Graphic design. More than likely, your perception and meaning of what it is is different than the next.

What many don’t realize is that graphic design is everywhere. You couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without viewing some sort of graphic design.

Billboards. Brochures. A book cover. A website. A logo. I could go on for hours, but we don’t have that kind of time — right?! Instead, we need to be spending time improving our business to the best it can possibly get.

One of the most effective ways of taking your brand to the next level is through graphic design. By simply getting a professional logo and website designed, your company/business will earn credibility, trust, and recognition — instantly.

To elaborate, here’s some of the many ways graphic design can make a difference in your business.

Brand recognition

When you apply graphic design to all brand materials and collateral, you gain instant recognition. Maintaining consistency to have a cohesive look and feel can take your business to a new visual level.

With your set of design standards for your business in place, there’s no doubt that with good graphic design you’ll stand out from the rest.

Professionalism

Graphic design can easily be used to portray your business a certain way. Whether you want to be fun and quirky or professional and modern, through color selection, design style, and font choice — you dictate how you want to be seen through your design.

On the other hand, be sure you have a clear vision of who you are as a brand, so as not to portray yourself as something you’re not.

Well done graphic design should give credibility and professionalism to any brand, regardless of the style.

Cost effective

We all know budgets, it’s a part of doing business. However, don’t underestimate the power of investing in good graphic design.

Don’t think that you have to put up thousands for good graphic design though — bad graphic design can easily cost you a lot as well. Do your research first to ensure you make the right decision.

As many do have tight budgets, you might defer to those online DIY website builders and design templates. There is nothing wrong with this when you’re just starting out, but in order to scale your business and brand you’ve got to invest in it.

A well executed website is not just how it looks — there’s navigation, layout, functionality, usability, and so on. On your own, without the expertise, there’s no way you’d be able to carry this out properly.

Investing in graphic design is just that, an investment — but it’s not one you’ll regret. Save the time trying to do it yourself, and concentrate on building your business and growing revenue.

Communication

Graphic design many times is also referred to as visual communication. It’s the representation of your brand, that speaks to your audience and viewers.

A well thought out graphic design should be clear and concise. If someone looks at your logo, and says, “What is that?,” well, then, the designer didn’t do their job very well.

Deliver your message, on brand, and to the right audience. This is what good graphic design can do for you.

Boost sales

As a (biased) graphic designer myself, a business with really good graphic design intrigues me and I instantly become more interested in what they do.

Take for example Warby Parker. As a fellow spectacle wearer (glasses in layman’s terms), I was in search of a new pair a couple years ago and came across WP. Through their exquisite graphic design and easy to navigate website, they created one of the most enjoyable experiences for me as a customer. It was visually appealing, I was never lost, and I wanted to buy those glasses now. To make it even better, their glasses were of excellent quality, and affordable, so for that I’ll more than likely be a return customer.

Now let’s think of the opposite, I’ll use GlassesUSA. Same industry, same type of products. Initially going to their website it’s cluttered, there’s pop-ups, and completely overwhelming. Although their main navigation is fairly straightforward, their added navigation bars above and over-populated homepage make for a frazzled first impression.

Like the example above explains, good graphic design can easily influence your customers to buy from you (or not). It’s imperative you take the look of your brand seriously, otherwise how could you expect anyone else to?

The Role of Drones in Precision Agriculture

With the world supply at an all-time high and commodity prices at an all-time low as a result of increasing demands in food production and consumption, the modern farming industry is at a crossroads. There is a greater need than ever before for farmers and agronomists across the globe to improve resource management in response to tightening budgets, while the “farm to fork” movement has seen rising pressure for enhanced product traceability, as consumers become more interested in the origin of the goods they purchase and how they were grown.

Furthermore, climate change continues to create new layers of complexity for the agriculture industry in protecting the security of the supply chain. Rapidly evolving environmental conditions further exacerbate these challenges, and the latest figures show that the overall loss to agriculture across Europe from climate change could be as high as 16% by 2050. Indeed, optimizing sustainability credentials to minimize the impact on the health and well-being of the public and the planet will remain a priority, particularly as enhanced sustainability measures could also provide additional economic benefits by enabling agriculture professionals to focus their resources and efforts more effectively.

A landmark report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that sustainable land management could be key to reversing the impact of climate change on land degradation – a significant consequence of human and agricultural activity and extreme weather conditions, in which the quality of land and soil is polluted or degraded. The report claims that this could provide “cost-effective, immediate and long-term benefits”.  With this in mind, it is crucial that farms change how they operate to not only mitigate the effects of climate change, but to protect themselves against economic loss.

The Rise of Precision Agriculture

To balance feeding the planet with reducing global emissions, ambitious plans have been put in place. The U.K.’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU), for example, has outlined its goal of making British agriculture carbon neutral by 2040, with the introduction of a range of measures to improve land management, increase farming efficiencies, and boost the wider bioeconomy. Although there is no single answer to the problem, the NFU has advocated working “smarter” to cut direct pollution from farming, by delivering the same value with fewer emissions.

Precision agriculture practices, which can help farmers make better informed decisions, have evolved significantly over recent years, with the global market now estimated to reach $43.4 billion by 2025. While drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have not yet made it into the mainstream agriculture space, they are playing an increasingly important role in precision farming, helping agriculture professionals lead the way with sustainable farming practices, while also protecting and increasing profitability.

The use of global positioning system (GPS) technology, together with geographic information system (GIS) tools, form a large part of these precision agriculture practices allowing fine-scale monitoring and mapping of yield and crop parameter data within fields. These provide more intense and efficient cultivation methods, which can help farmers adjust fertilizer prescriptions or identify crop diseases before they become widespread. With more data at their fingertips, farmers can make decisions based on economic and environmental factors – for example, by optimizing fertilizer treatment and applying only the right amount at the right time, significant cost and environmental savings can be made.

The Adoption of Drones

The use of drones in the agriculture industry is steadily growing as part of an effective approach to sustainable agricultural management that allows agronomists, agricultural engineers, and farmers to help streamline their operations, using robust data analytics to gain effective insights into their crops. Crop monitoring, for example, is made easier by using drone data to accurately plan and make ongoing improvements, such as the use of ditches and evolving fertilizer applications. Products can be accurately traced from farm to fork using GPS locations for every point in the journey, rather than more traditional time and labor-intensive data collection.

UAVs are particularly useful for the careful monitoring of large areas of farmland, considering factors such as slope and elevation, for example, to identify the most suitable seeding prescriptions. The technology has also proven useful in gaining an extensive overview of plant emergence and population, as more accurate data can help with replanting decisions, as well as thinning and pruning activity and the improvement of crop models.

Crucially, the high-resolution nature of drone data can be used to assess the fertility of crops, allowing agricultural professionals to more accurately apply fertilizer, reduce wastage, and plan – and troubleshoot – irrigation systems. The technology can also be particularly effective following natural disasters, such as a flood, to help farmers to assess damage across terrains that may not be readily accessible on foot.

Taking Drones Further

The potential for UAVs in the improvement of sustainable agriculture is huge. Already the agriculture drone market is predicted to be worth US$32.4 billion – an indication that the industry is beginning to recognize the benefits over more traditional methods, such as ground mapping.

Given the extensive terrain that requires surveying, drones offer increased efficiency, allowing users to capture high-resolution imagery more quickly than alternative methods. Particularly in these volatile market conditions, estimating annual yield can help guide decision-making and manage expectations. In addition, UAVs are now seen as a safer option for mapping difficult areas, such as uneven or expansive fields, that can be hazardous for operators – particularly compared to terrestrial techniques, which must be carried out on-foot.

Where satellites and manned aircrafts have traditionally been used to monitor agriculture, UAVs are quickly becoming recognized as a more accurate and cost-effective replacement. Studies have shown that drone imagery provides a higher rate of accuracy and resolution – even on cloudy days. While using traditional terrestrial approaches to collect data in challenging weather conditions could potentially delay projects for days, accurate crop health assessments can be made throughout the year using UAVs.


The cameras on satellites and manned aircrafts have also historically been insufficient to map fields clearly, making it impossible to gain an exact picture of plants. In contrast, UAV technology provides users with an accurate picture of the different plant parts – even allowing the early identification of pests and diseases. Historically, processing these high-quality images took longer than ground mapping and satellite methods, however thanks to new software solutions, the processing time has been reduced to only a few minutes. This means it can be carried out while still in the field, allowing evidence-based decisions to be made immediately and data to be directly inputted into precision farming equipment, considerably speeding up the process.

Key Considerations

Once farmers have decided to employ drones in agricultural management, there are several factors to consider before investment. Rotary drones and fixed-wing drones are two types of UAVs that each bring distinct advantages. A rotary system, such as a quadcopter or multicopter, is ideal for mapping and inspecting small areas, thanks to its ability to take high resolution imagery at closer range, using mm per pixel. The take-off and landing area can also be very small, which suits more urban areas. In contrast, a fixed-wing drone is often more suitable and beneficial for agricultural applications, where mapped areas are usually large and take-off and landing space is not limited. Its endurance and high cruising speed allows a greater area of land to be mapped up to 2.6x faster, with an object resolution of cm/inch per pixel, and users also benefit from its ability to withstand high wind resistance – an important factor when mapping large areas of open land – as well as reduced labor costs.

In addition to the choice of device, agricultural professionals must also consider the benefits of using a third party to assist with flying the drones, or whether it is more beneficial to train a team in-house. Companies are increasingly opting to use drones in-house, due to the long-term cost benefits and potential return-on-investment. Advances in technology now means that UAVs can also be seamlessly integrated with existing farm management information systems (FMIS), to reduce time spent planning and in the field. Helping to streamline workflows further, partnerships between hardware and software manufacturers can also support agricultural professionals with the processing and analysis following data collection – all in one system.

This allows agricultural professionals to fly the drone and process the images using accompanying software, before exporting the data directly to an application map for use on farming equipment, such as sprayers. These measures enable precision application and ensure less wastage of materials, which can help save costs. Linking the farmer, drone maker, software, ag service provider, and agronomist together, this level of seamless integration enables a complete drone to tractor workflow – leading the way in intelligent agriculture and optimizing farm management methods.

It is also crucial for operators to keep up to date with regulations, such as controlled airspaces around airports and individuals’ privacy. Legislation is continuously evolving and is not currently harmonized across the world. Since regulations vary substantially between regions, having the right team in place can help drone operators in the agriculture industry choose a compliant model, ensure they have the correct certification and fly according to the latest guidance and safety and regulatory standards.

Flying High

With rising emissions from agriculture an increasing problem, changes in farming need to be made to help mitigate climate change and protect against future environmental impact. Agricultural mapping with drones has become more accessible, allowing operators to gain crucial insights into the health of crops and plan accordingly. Not only does the technology have a positive environmental impact, but it can also result in significant cost savings for farmers and agricultural professionals in the long-term. Drones have become an efficient way to quickly and easily map difficult terrain – particularly compared to more traditional methods of mapping, such as manned aircrafts and satellites. This is helping agriculture become a data-driven industry. T

The future for drone technology in improving sustainability is promising. The next step will be the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically analyze the resulting data. Not only would this encourage more efficient operations but enabling more frequent health assessments would also help improve sustainability throughout the industry.

Case Study: Reducing Herbicide Use in Brazil

Drones have been used to help reduce herbicide use by 52% in a Brazilian soybean field. With a flight time of up to 90 minutes, the senseFly eBee X allows up to 500 hectares (1,200 acres) to be mapped, providing high quality images of fields. Accurate images of the landscape were processed and analyzed using Pix 4D Fields to automatically detect areas with weed infestation. The team quickly and efficiently gained access to the results and classification of weed infestation level within hours, with detailed accounts of weed thresholds. The results generated by the fleet of eBee X fixed-wing drones using Pix 4D Fields processing technology helped to generate herbicide application maps that saved, on average, 52% of herbicides for farmers in the 2018/19 season in Brazil.