Looking back on 2022

2022 was a year for growth, trials, challenges, successes and more! We are so thankful for all of our clients that have allowed us to continue to grow throughout the year. While this year was a memorable one we are excited for the opportunity that 2023 presents us, cheers to making our business focused on growing yours!

Drones Bringing Higher Yields to the Table

It used to be that agriculture involved quite a bit of guesswork: What would the weather patterns be? What kind of crop yield could be expected? 

Over the years, farmers have found innovative ways to answer these questions as much as possible with new technologies. Agriculture drones are the next step in this process. Agriculture drones can be used to do anything from precision agriculture, to efficiently dispersing weed control or fertilizers, to optimizing field management. The results include reduced operation costs, improved crop quality, and an increased yield rate.

The rapidly changing world of agriculture

The farming operations of today look quite different than even a few decades ago. New technology has allowed the growers of today to optimize each part of their operations — from field spraying to grow cycles and crop health. 

A big part of that transformation can be attributed to drones and other types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). With an agriculture drone, farmers get in-depth data analysis and mission planning as well as new tools capable of handling physical work.

Whether you’re an independent farmer or a leader of a larger organization, drone technology can help you beat your harvest goals and yield more crops with fewer resources. Two of the main ways that the right UAV and payload can help are efficient crop spraying and field mapping. 

T10 SprayingThe Agras T10

Spraying a field with a UAV

The Agras line of spraying drones from DJI can help precisely deliver the following: 

  • Fertilizer
  • Herbicide
  • Fungicide
  • Pesticide
  • Seeds
  • Desiccants

The efficient application of the above is a persistent challenge for any grower. If you spray too much concentrated in one place, you run up extra costs and potentially decrease the quality of your produce. Too low a concentration, however, and you leave your crops vulnerable to being overgrown with weeds, malnourished, or eaten by insects and other predators — potentially decreasing the yield rate.

However, the right farming drones and spraying payloads can distribute chemicals evenly and efficiently. 

The results? Improved crop quality and a higher yield rate without intense manual labor. DJI drones can be used on nearly any kind of crop, including rice, wheat, corn, citrus trees, cotton, and much more. 

T10 overhead

In addition to covering more land at a lower price, drone spraying can offer major environmental benefits. Drones can more efficiently distribute pesticides so that you use less for the same overall effect. UAV seeding can also help maximize the efficient use of your land. With climate change and development expected to eat into the total amount of land globally available for farming, effective land use will be key to maintaining successful results in the years ahead. 

Using drones to gather data for precision agriculture

Smart spraying and seeding aren’t the only ways to increase overall agricultural efficiency, cut costs, or increase yields. Drones can also be used to map out an area and create new insights — taking the guesswork out of much of the growing process. 

P4M OutdoorThe P4 Multispectral

One of the keys to all of this is remote sensing technology, which picks up radiation on the ground and can track everything from physical characteristics to the amount of heat an area is generating. The best agriculture mapping drones take this concept further with what’s called multispectral imaging. This means that they can capture light sensors both visible and invisible within a set range. Two key types of maps that can be created with this kind of agricultural drone include:

  • RGB maps: A birds-eye view but even better, even a basic Red Green Blue (RGB) map can offer fresh information. These maps allow you to see exactly how much land you have to grow on to the centimeter and assist with crop monitoring over an extended period of time, helping you adjust from season to season.
  • NDVI maps: Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) takes the insights of an RGB map one step further. The map shows the amount of infrared light reflected in an area, which is an indicator of malnourishment and drought. According to Go Intelligence, this kind of data collection can be used to spot problem crops as much as two weeks before physical signs emerge, making it an invaluable tool for farmers trying to accurately predict their yield rate. 
RGB vs NDVI

For more information on how drone data can transform the way you grow, read our eBook “Multispectral Imaging Drones for Agriculture: Crop Health Data at Your Disposal.

Multispectral Imaging Drone eBook

The right agriculture drones and payloads

When you’re looking for the best in agricultural technology, you want the drones and payloads of DJI. Our solutions are designed with the needs of growers in mind. DJI drones have sprayed over 350,000 square kilometers to date, and that’s just based on data that was manually uploaded by users. 

Our top agricultural drones include:

The Agras T30 (or T20 or T10)T30 Render

The newest in a line of successful Agras drones, the Agras T30 is your ideal solution for spraying larger fields thanks to its 40kg capacity, a flow rate of up to 50 kg per minute, a spreading width of up to 7 meters, and an hourly spreading capacity of 1 ton for urea. This translates to the ability to cover up to 40 acres per hour.  

The mighty T30, however, isn’t the only drone Agras drone to choose from. The Agras T10 and Agras T20 are each designed to offer the same crop spraying capabilities but are more ideal for smaller and mid-size fields. 

Phantom 4 RTK

P4 RTK RenderWhile the Agras line was designed with field spraying in mind, the Phantom 4 RTK is the perfect tool for field mapping. This drone can help to generate precise maps thanks to an RTK module that is integrated directly into the drone. The new TimeSync system continually aligns the flight controller, camera, and RTK module for fixed positioning data you can trust. This drone is the perfect complement to any surveying job, from the farm to the construction site. 

P4 Multispectral

P4M Render

Designed with the agriculture sector in mind, the P4 Multispectral blends perfectly into your workflows. Use this tool takes advantage of multispectral imaging to gain immediate insights into your plants’ health. Features include an integrated spectral sunlight sensor and an RTK Module that allows for accuracy down to the centimeter.

Spot Spraying With Drones: Using Technology to Cut Herbicide Use in Half

Cropland weed management is a global challenge. Weed pressure in the field decreases crop yield as a result of resource competition. To combat weeds and protect their crops, farmers are increasingly adopting herbicides in farm management. However, overuse of herbicides not only increases farmers’ operational costs but also undermines the health of the ecosystem. Many countries have set a goal to reduce agricultural chemical usage. The European Green Deal aims to decrease agricultural chemical usage by 50% by the year 2030. Drone and Aerial Software Developer DJI recently proved that precision agriculture and drone technology might help to achieve these goals by implementing multispectral scouting and precise spraying with drones.

Agriculture drone、Pesticide sprayer、Unmanned aircraft、Use of drones in agriculture、 Crop spraying、Agricultural technology

Cirsium arvense

Cirsium arvense is a widespread weed across many continents, including Europe. It competes with crop plants for soil resources and releases chemical toxins poisonous to other plants, causing severe yield loss. It can spread from seeds and from modified, underground stems, making land tilling and plowing ineffective in controlling Cirsium arvense spread. Herbicide spraying is the most commonly used management method. Traditionally, in autumn or spring, before or after seeding, farmers use a tractor to spray the entire field, 300L/ha, of an herbicide solution containing 5L of glyphosate.

The Mission

Noticing that Cirsium arvense often presents in only some portions of the field rather than the entire field, DJI partner, PlantaDrone, from Hungary, decided to adopt a spot spraying solution using drones to try to decrease chemical usage.

First, they flew a DJI P4 Multispectral drone over an 18-hectare cereal field to collect multispectral images and then used DJI Terra to process and generate an NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) map from these images. Given that this was before seeding and no other crop plants were present in the field, NDVI effectively located Cirsium arvense patches in the field (the green patches shown in the picture below).

Agriculture drone、Pesticide sprayer、Unmanned aircraft、Use of drones in agriculture、 Crop spraying、Agricultural technology
NDVI map of cropland field with Cirsium arvense distribution

Based on the NDVI map, they generated a prescription map. Three different dosages of glyphosate solution were sprayed, depending on the infection density of the weed spots (weak, moderate, and strong infection). An 8L/ha solution was sprayed on the weakly infected areas (0≤0.1), 10L/ha on the moderately infected areas (0.1≥0.2) (E. SZALMA (2021). Areas with NDVI≤0 were not sprayed. In every 10L of the solution, there is 3.5L of glyphosate (35% concentration).

Agriculture drone、Pesticide sprayer、Unmanned aircraft、Use of drones in agriculture、 Crop spraying、Agricultural technology
Prescription map and flight routes

This prescription mission was then sent from Terra to the DJI Agras drone for spot spraying.

Agriculture drone、Pesticide sprayer、Unmanned aircraft、Use of drones in agriculture、 Crop spraying、Agricultural technology
Spot spraying mission with Agras drone

Results

The drone used 83L of the solution, containing 29L of glyphosate. Compared with a blanket application with a tractor, which would use a total of 90L, 67.78% of chemicals were saved, meaning a savings of 14.57 EUR per hectare for farmers (E. SZALMA (2021).

Application MethodTotal Glyphosate UsageTotal CostTotal SavingTotal Saving Per Hectare
Blanket application with tractor90L387 EUR 00
Spot spraying with drone29L124.7 EUR262.3 EUR14.57 EUR

After successfully helping farmers to reduce glyphosate usage and chemical costs through spot spraying, Elemér Szalma, Engineer from PlantaDrone, believes that drone technology will be significant for the EU’s Green Deal. “If we want to achieve the agricultural chemical decrease goals of the EU’s Green Deal by the year 2030, our best chances are zone/spot spraying/spreading, and Variable Rate Application.”

FlyDragon Aviation co ltd developed an AI drone for oil palm tree spot spraying.

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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.
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.

Thermal Imaging on Drones and Its Benefits

19th UAS Precision

Thermal imaging or thermography is a technique in which thermographic cameras are used for detecting the radiation present in the range of infrared rays. Radiation that has a wavelength ranging between nine and fourteen micrometers is identified by the thermographic cameras.

Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles are aircraft that are not operated by onboard pilots and are controlled by automatic devices or pilots on the ground. They are used for a number of purposes and missions.

Combining thermal imaging and drones results in an extraordinary and extremely useful technique known as thermal imaging on drones.

What is meant by Thermal Imaging on Drones?

Thermal imaging on drones refers to the incorporation of thermographic cameras inside drones. Thermographic cameras are installed inside the unmanned aircraft and these aircraft are then used for different tasks.

These drones are then launched and sent to the area that needs to be examined using thermography. The minute thermographic cameras in the drones come in action; they begin analyzing the area under study. The thermograms produced by these cameras are recorded and can be viewed by the person controlling the drone. He can easily identify the object he is interested in by seeing the radiation emitted by that body. As the temperature of a certain object rises, it emits more radiation. By analyzing the radiations and the color produced by them, the controller is able to locate the entity he seeks.

What are the Benefits of Thermal Imaging on Drones?

Thermographic cameras in drones have several benefits. Firstly, this technique helps in examining inaccessible areas. Lots of areas cannot be accessed by people or other objects. On the other hand, drones can easily enter areas of minute sizes because of their small size. This makes it quite convenient for different people or companies to get thermal images of complicated areas.

Secondly, before the creation of this technique, sky workers holding thermographic equipment or thermographic cameras on tripod stands were used to examine an area thermographically. Both these methods were laborious as well as inconvenient. As drones can easily become airborne and can stay in the air for as long as forty hours, this technique is extremely effective.

Thirdly, thermal imaging on drones helps in saving time. You can use UAVs at any time of the day you want and can get results very quickly. This saves a lot of time that can otherwise be utilized for completing other important tasks related to a mission.

Fourthly, this technique helps in saving funds as well. You don’t need to hire people or install a thermographic camera at several points of high altitude for examining an area. With the help of a thermographic camera in a single drone, you can survey and get thermographic images of an area from a variety of different points quite easily. This makes this technique cost-effective and extremely easy.

As thermal imaging on drones offers all these benefits, it is becoming quite common. Individuals, multinationals, government agencies, and military organizations are using this method for carrying out numerous important projects.

All You Need to Know About Drone Surveying

Drones are continually proving to be powerful commercial tools, simultaneously providing adopters with leaps in efficiency and safety. The surveying and mapping industry is no exception.

With their ability to capture data from above, drones have been successfully integrated into surveying workflows to perform land surveys, photogrammetry, 3D mapping, topographic surveying, and more.

Whether you’re an experienced surveyor looking to expand your toolkit, or you’re a drone enthusiast who wants to know more ways to use their drone, or you’re just generally interested in this awesome application of drones, we’ve put together an article to help you learn everything you need to know when it comes to getting started with drone surveying.

DJI P4 RTKPhantom 4 RTK, an aerial surveying drone

What is a drone survey?

Surveying is the precise science of determining the positions of, and the distances between, points in 2D and 3D space. There is a big difference between aerial photography and surveying

Surveys provide critical information that enables informed decision making ranging from construction site planning, to design and upkeep of infrastructure, to delineating cadastral property boundaries, and more.

A drone survey is simply a survey conducted from overhead using a drone.

Drone photogrammetry flight planningDrone photogrammetry

Why is using drones for surveying superior compared to traditional methods?

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, excel at rapidly acquiring data from vantage points inaccessible to humans.

When surveying challenging terrain, drones make it no longer necessary for human operators to physically access and measure points in hazardous or difficult-to-reach locations.

Additionally, while traditional surveying methods require meticulous measurement, preparation, and planning, drones can capture comparable data in dramatically shorter timeframes.

For example, STRABAG, a leading Austrian construction company estimates drones enable them to conduct surveys with 75% reduced GCP set-up time. Click here to learn more about STRABAG’s gains in efficiency.

In sum, drone surveying produces quality results quickly, profitably, and safely.

What kinds of deliverables can you achieve with drone surveying?

Depending on your choice of data sensors and surveying software, drone surveying can produce a variety of deliverables with use cases in many industries.2D Orthomosaic Map

Surveying software can stitch together hundreds or thousands of digital photos captured by your drone, and produce high quality 2D

Orthomosaic maps3D Orthomosaic MapLarge numbers of digital photos of your surveying site can be compiled into a 3D orthomosaic map and can provide actionable topographic data

3D Model

Generate 3D models of targets in your surveying site for quick comparison with BIM

Thermal

Survey with a thermal camera and quickly identify targets with abnormal heat signatures

LiDAR

Equip your drone with a LiDAR camera to produce a high-density point cloud. To learn more about drone LiDAR, click here 

MultispectralCapture multispectral data from beyond the visible light spectrum to give insight into agriculture and crop management 

Drones and BIM

In construction and project management, drone surveying can provide critical data that goes hand in hand with Building Information Modeling (BIM).

At each stage of the construction process, high-resolution 3D photogrammetric or laser models captured by drones can be overlaid on and compared with pre-planned BIM objects. This allows for discrepancies between plans and reality to be identified.

BIM

Overlaying BIM Models on an 3D Orthomosaic map

Early detection of these issues can reduce construction error, omission, and re-work, and this project oversight has made drones an essential part of modern construction. 

How accurate are drone surveys?

Before adopting drones into their workflows, many surveyors ask about aerial surveying accuracy. What degree of accuracy can drone surveying techniques achieve?

Surveying drone solutions can produce surveys with different degrees of accuracy, depending on the requirements of the project.

In an independent study by DroneDeploy, the DJI Phantom 4 RTK achieved 2 cm relative vertical accuracy and 1.20 cm relative horizontal accuracy.

For some applications, like checking crop growth, or construction progress, high relative accuracy is sufficient. For other jobs that also require high absolute accuracy, there are drones equipped with real-time kinematics (RTK) and post-processing kinematics (PPK) capabilities. When paired with a few GCPs, survey-level accuracy can be achieved. 

What does a typical drone surveying workflow look like?

Here is a graphic of how drones are typically integrated into your surveying workflows: Different drone solutions and drone-assisted workflows can offer different degrees of accuracy. When selecting your surveying drone, it is important to recognize your demands, the demands of your clients, and the tradeoff between speed and accuracy.

Data Collection Workflow
Data Processing Workflow

DJI’s drone surveying solutions

With all the benefits drones bring, and with so many surveying drone options to choose from, it raises the question, which is the best drone for surveying?

The answer ultimately lies with your priorities. Surveying accuracy requirements, data sensors, and cost should all come into consideration. Click here for more detail on the best UAV surveying and mapping solutions.

Thank you for reading!

THE BENEFITS OF DRONES TO THE AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY

Article originally shared from Drone USA*

While drones have been used in private industries for decades, their commercial applications continue to expand as quickly as innovators can come up with new ideas. As drones become more prevalent in our society, much of this growth is attributed not only to declining costs of technology but also to  the adjustment of government restrictions on drone use. The agriculture industry, which continues to incorporate new and evolving technology, has found drones to be an indispensable tool for farmers around the world.

Drone technology is useful for a variety of applications, such as scouting out new field locations, providing quick and easy ways to remotely check small sections of crops, and surveying entire fields. Drones are helping farmers address several of the developing challenges in the industry. The use of drones can help to increase productivity, permitting for improved agricultural adaptation to the effects of climate change; they can also assist in the reduction of pollution.

Improved Productivity

One of the most promising and exciting benefits of agricultural drones is their ability to meet the demands of growing populations. Experts predict the world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050. At the same time, agricultural consumption is projected to increase by nearly 70 percent. The needs of the ever-growing farming industry, combined with the difficulty that comes with monitoring so many crops, have created many obstacles that drone technology can help to overcome. Currently, farmers rely heavily on satellite imagery, which is the most sophisticated form of crop monitoring to date. There are, however, many limitations to this technology, and drones are quickly replacing satellites as the preferred tool for many jobs. Satellite images are not proactive enough and must be ordered in advance, farmers can only retrieve images once a day, and the images lack precision. These images are also extremely expensive, and the quality depends on variable factors like the weather.

Giving growers the ability to quickly and easily analyze entire fields at once has many advantages. Today, images from drones can indicate the development of a crop with precision and can locate underperforming areas, enabling better crop management. Drones can be outfitted with countless combinations of sensors to fit a farmer’s needs. Various sensors can also be used to pick out healthy plants from the unhealthy ones, while others simply compare color differences in crops which are undetectable to the human eye. Some sensors detect heat or moisture to determine crop health. Maps like this can help farmers greatly in pinpointing problem areas of a crop. All of this ultimately helps growers catch problems early and allows them to continue to improve the productivity of their crop.

Adaptation to Climate Change

Extreme weather is becoming an unfortunate reality for many farming operations. The effects of climate change are creating a growing list of obstacles to productivity, such as drought, flood, and damage caused by storms. As a result, agricultural producers are seeking out new strategies to improve production and increase efficiency – through the use of drone technology, farmers are successfully working towards sustainability.

Irrigation is the number one concern for farmers who are faced with longer and more dramatic droughts. Drones equipped with the right sensors can identify which parts of a field need more water. Farmers can use this real time information to make the proper adjustments to their fields and use their resources optimally and without waste. Additionally, the information gathered by the drones can help farmers perfect the level of water in the field to create peak growing conditions tailored to specific crops. When crops are damaged from storms and other unpredictable weather conditions, drones equipped with the right imaging equipment can be used to estimate crop loss. This helps to speed clean up and repairs while mitigating both risk and field maintenance costs for the farmer.

Reducing Pollution

Agricultural runoff from industrial fertilizer and pesticides is a major health concern. By checking on plant health and pinpointing troubled areas, drones produce valuable data that farmers can use to reduce chemical application by only administering chemicals in a very targeted manner. Drones can also be equipped with equipment that gives them the ability to scan the ground and spray the precise amount of chemicals at the perfect altitude needed for any application. This dramatically reduces the amount of chemicals used and virtually eliminates overspray. The ability of a drone to make real time adjustments greatly improves efficiency over outdated and haphazard crop dusting.

Remotely accessing fields can help detect bacterial or fungal infections early, and a rapid response to such infections can save an entire crop. The capability to react quickly allows farmers to apply and monitor remedies more precisely, ultimately increasing the crop’s ability to overcome the disease. All of this improves efficiency and reduces the number and quantity of chemicals released into the environment. In fact, experts estimate that aerial spraying via drones is five times more effective than traditional methods. The bottom line is that a drone’s precise application of chemicals saves money and helps the environment.

Drone technology is continuously evolving to meet industry needs. It’s possible that in the near future, farmers will be able to utilize autonomous systems that monitor and update all information in real time. From lowering farmers cost of production to improving efficiency, the economic advantages of drone technology are clear. One thing is certain: drones will rise to meet the numerous challenges facing the agriculture industry far into the future. They will undoubtedly be an integral part of the industry’s ability to grow, despite the effects of global warming, while simultaneously improving the environmental impact the agriculture industry has on the planet.

How Drones Are Changing the Business World

*Article sourced from Investopedia

As technology continues to grow and play a larger role in consumers’ lives, industries have transformed and adapted as well. Companies have moved away from brick and mortar to predominantly online services as a result of ubiquitous Internet access. In this shift, online companies reduce overhead costs, including rent and wages, associated with operating a physical store.

While online retailers are more convenient, purchases of goods and services are subject to additional shipping and handling charges incurred by the consumer. Even though technology has transformed a number of industries over the past 10 years, shipping and postage have remained relatively unchanged. Traditional postal service providers such as USPS, UPS (UPS), and FedEx (FDX) have remained the primary source of shipping and handling for major online retailers.

Recently, Amazon (AMZN) has challenged the status quo with Amazon Prime Air. Amazon Prime Air is a drone delivery system that anticipates package deliveries in 30 minutes or less1 . The program has not been executed as yet but is currently in development.

While the financial and economic impact of drones is robust, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) regulations in conjunction with privacy and safety concerns have delayed the launch of commercial drone services.2

Regulations

Amazon’s efforts to launch unmanned aerial delivery systems have been delayed as a result of FAA regulations. Currently, drones in the U.S. are sanctioned for military, research, and recreational use. Military drones are not subject to the same regulations as those used for research and recreation.

At the moment, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the U.S. are regulated up to a height of 400 feet of airspace in populated areas. Commercial use of drones has not been sanctioned by the FAA and is currently illegal. With concerns about air space and ground safety, the FAA is reluctant to provide licenses allowing companies to test drone services within the United States.3

Amazon’s inability to research aerial delivery within U.S. borders has led the ecommerce leader to test this new technology in the United Kingdom, with successful tests run in Cambridge, England, in 2016. In 2015, the FAA did provide Amazon with permission to test current models of drones, but by then Amazon had also been testing in Canada.

One of the main setbacks to drone use for commercial activity is the FAA’s rule requiring “line of sight.” This rule requires a drone operator to have the drone in their line of sight at all times, which defeats the purpose of using drones commercially, especially for deliveries.4

Economic Impact

Rapid technological innovation has provided consumers cutting-edge products at affordable prices. Traditionally, drones had been limited to military use due to high costs and technical sophistication. However, due to economies of scale, consumers can purchase drones for less than $100.

With widespread access, consumer companies such as Amazon have explored the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for commercial purposes. Amazon Prime Air has promised a 30-minute delivery service for packages of up to 5 lbs. Google (GOOG), in altruistic contrast to Amazon, has developed aerial drones for environmental conservation and delivery of medicine to remote locations.1

The environmental impact is also immense. Powered by batteries, drones are more environmentally friendly than delivery trucks. If delivery drones gain widespread usage, this would reduce the reliance on vehicles for many companies. This would have an adverse impact on automobile manufacturers, but the impact on the environment would be a boon and would help many countries reduce emissions, helping meet emissions targets set in various global agreements.

The economic implications of commercial drone use are undeniable. The market for drones is estimated to be $127 billion across a variety of industries. Notably, the commercial use of drones will predominantly affect agriculture and infrastructure more so than commerce. Due to the ability to cover large areas, drone use in agriculture is anticipated to effectively feed and hydrate plants while also limiting exposure to diseases. 

On a macroeconomic scale, the integration of UAVs could create more than 100,000 jobs. Over a 10-year span, job creation from commercial drone use will consist primarily of manufacturing jobs and drone operators. Likewise, states will benefit from tax windfalls, stemming from increased economic activity.5

The implications clearly have a positive impact on businesses and consumers. Consumers directly benefit from job creation, resulting in additional earnings. Commercial drones will also allow industries to realize savings from cost-effective means of inventory, transportation, and distribution. These cost savings can be passed down to the consumer through a reduction in prices.

Disadvantages

While the financial implications of drone use are robust, numerous consumers, states, and regulators believe sanctioned UAV use to be detrimental. 44 states have passed their own laws on drone usage for commercial, recreational, and public use. Widespread use of drones is anticipated to increase privacy concerns among citizens nervous about corporate and government data collection. Amazon drones utilize a camera and GPS to navigate delivery destinations, which many believe to be intrusive.

Furthermore, drone delivery services offered by Amazon and other companies will face logistical roadblocks. Traditional postal services maintain the liability of damaged or stolen property incurred in the delivery process. However, without human monitoring, a drone is unable to ensure seamless deliveries. Likewise, deliveries in major cities are bound to encounter numerous issues. Accessing apartment units within city skyscrapers is an insurmountable feat for an unmanned aerial vehicle.

Aside from logistical and privacy concerns, wildlife, such as birds, face higher risks with the greater number of aerial vehicles. The FAA estimates that birds cause more than $1 billion in damages to aircraft in the United States.6

The Bottom Line

Amazon’s continued efforts to test and research unmanned aerial vehicles have put pressure on Congress and the FAA to reform drone regulations. The integration of drones into national airspace will not only benefit ecommerce businesses like Amazon but industries such as agriculture, public safety, and natural disaster management, to name a few. In a more altruistic manner, Google anticipates the use of its drones for the delivery of medical products and as a means of protecting the environment.

The economic impacts associated with UAV integration consist of job creation and billion-dollar growth. Likewise, industries cut costs from more effective means of transportation and distribution. Even with the apparent disadvantages, it is estimated that every year integration is delayed, the U.S. loses $10 billion in financial growth.