Uses for Drones in Agriculture

By Shari Wahling, HTS Agg

My husband really wants a drone. One night after the kids went to bed, he went into full trying to convince the wife mode. He told me all about the things the drone could do to help him in his farming operation and how great it is that the company that I work for happens to sell DJI drones and Drone Deploy software. He thought not only would him getting a drone help him in his farming operation, but also help the company I work for with their drone sales. Win, win.

I was a little more than skeptical of this. I figured he really just wanted a drone because it would be a fun toy for him to play with. I did, however, promise to look at some information and keep an open mind. What I found is that there really are uses for drones in agriculture and benefits too.

Drones can save you money. I read this article that said drones could save farmers millions. A study conducted by Informa Economics and Measure found that corn, soybean and wheat farmers could save an estimated $1.3 billion annually by using drones to increase crop yields and reduce input costs. It said that corn producers stand to be the biggest beneficiaries of aerial devices with savings totaling an average of $11.58 per acre. Wheat and soybean would benefit less because of lower input costs compared to corn, but could still see returns of $2.57 and $2.28 respectively. Crop yields could increase by 3.3% for wheat and 2.5% for soybeans and corn.

How can drones save you money and increase yields?

Today satellites, manned planes and walking the fields are the main ways farmers monitor crops. These can be incomplete or time consuming and can take a long time to process and analyze data. This makes it difficult for a farmer to react to a problem, like a disease outbreak before it’s too late or the cost to treat it has soared. A drone can be equipped with infrared cameras, sensors and other technology or be used with a complimentary software program to identify insect problems, watering issues and assess crop yields. The drone’s information can be analyzed right away to detect potentially yield limiting problems. (Not to mention the cost savings of flying a drone vs a manned plane.)

Drones can also be used to tailor a grower’s use of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer and other applications based on how much is needed at a specific point in the field. That will save the grower money from using unnecessary resources, boost production and also reduce the amount of run off.

There are other benefits of drones as well. Drones can save you time. Growers know the value of scouting the crops, but few actually have the time to cover the acres on foot. You can cover more ground with a drone. Drones can also help you look for a cow that has wandered off or just help you monitor your livestock. Drones today are relatively easy to use and are reasonably priced.

Drone owners do need to read and comply with the government regulations regarding drones. The FAA introduced new drone regulations on August 29, 2016. Drone owners must register their drone if it is under 55 lbs. but over .55 lbs. There is a max ground speed of 100 mph. Drone owners can fly at a maximum of 400 ft. AGL (Above Ground Level) or if higher than 400 ft., remain within 400 ft. of a structure. Drones can only have daylight only operations, and the drone remote pilot must remain within VLOS (Visual Line of Sight) of the drone without aided vision (other than corrective lenses). Please see faa.gov/uas for the complete listing of the FAA regulations.


Here is one of DJI’s Phantom 4 Drones that belongs to HTS Ag
and is branded with high visibility wrap.


HTS Ag sells DJI Drones (dji.com) which is a market leader and their drones are routinely on the “best drones” listings. When you pair the DJI Drone with Drone Deploy (dronedeploy.com) software, you have a powerful ally to your farming operation. With Drone Deploy, you can use a free app for iOS or Android to do an automated flight with your DJI Drone. You can upload imagery from your drone to generate a high quality map at a fast speed. View NDVI and other indicators to detect crop stress and variability. With Drone Deploy, you can make real time annotations and measurements and share maps with others. It also has a broad compatibility with precision ag software. I asked my co-worker to show me Drone Deploy so I could see what it could do and my favorite features were the georeferenced, orthorectified maps (in case you didn’t know, like me, orthorectified is an aerial photograph or image geometrically corrected such that the scale is uniform - according to Wikipedia), the 3-D Models were great, and the part that I thought my husband would like the best is the NDVI Analysis which does simple crop health visualizations with 5 algorithms.
 

This is a picture of some of what my co-worker showed me on the Drone Deploy software.


So, did my husband get a drone? Not yet, but I am definitely leaning towards it – as long as he does Drone Deploy with it!

For more information about DJI Drones or Drone Deploy Software, please call 800-741-3305 or email sales@htsag.com.
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653 Oak Road  •  Harlan, IA 51537
1920 Philadelphia #105  •  Ames, IA 50010
Phone: 800-741-3305