In a short amount of time, drones have become fairly ubiquitous, affecting everything from international affairs to amateur filmmaking. Soon, it appears that they’ll also play a major role in the agriculture industry, because as of now, there’s no bigger market for drones. According to estimates, agriculture will be responsible for $350 million in drone revenue by 2025.
In the United States, drones are set to become even more useful to farmers in the coming years. Recently, the FAA worked to make the process of registering for commercial drone use simpler. Previously, anyone wishing to fly a drone commercially needed to apply and pay for both a pilot’s license and an exemption for drone use—thus far, thousands of such exemptions have been made for farmers. Now, so long as they only operate drones that conform to specific restrictions regarding weight and altitude, certified drone operators can take a written test to get certified for commercial use. As a result, experts expect agriculture to make up 80 percent of all commercial drone use in America.
Ideally, this turn of events will be advantageous for everyone. Drone companies will have a larger target market, farmers will be able to do their work more efficiently, and the community will benefit from a stronger economy and a larger food supply.
Drones offer many benefits to people working in agriculture. First of all, simply knowing how much food you’re producing involves surveying your crops. With an aerial view, a farmer can more easily identify spots that are not yielding as much as expected, as well as areas that have been harmed by disease or pests. They can also use drones to keep a closer eye on their livestock.
Together, these two uses allow farmers to embrace what is sometimes referred to as “precision agriculture.” Quite simply, the population of the world is on the rise. Sustainable methods of growing food are becoming more and more necessary. For farmers, this means constantly monitoring their crops and gathering data to ensure that all of their resources are put to use in such a way as to maximize crop yield.
Without drones, this is a cumbersome process, one in which farmers often have to walk through the field itself for a full visual inspection. Now that they can gather the needed information more quickly, their response time can accelerate as well.
Of course, drones also make it much easier for farmers to protect their crops. Although the FAA changes are technically fairly recent, many in agriculture have already equipped their drones to help them spray fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides, and numerous other agrochemicals. Farmers can fly a drone over their crops, spot an area where disease is causing damage, and set out another drone to apply the needed chemical, all in record time.
Already, it is abundantly clear how these advances will contribute to a stronger economy while helping to reduce world hunger. In addition, they may also offer potential environmental benefits.
Throughout the history of agriculture, several principles have remained constant. One is easy enough to imagine: if a farmer’s crops don’t produce a sufficient yield, the farmer often has to expand their farmland into neighboring environments. This can mean cutting down trees, displacing wildlife communities, and, sadly, destroying natural habitats.
While agrochemicals have substantially reduced the degree to which farmers feel the need to extend their property, more innovations are always welcome. If those in the agriculture industry can more efficiently monitor their crops, identify problem areas, and spray chemicals, they can make the most of the land they currently have. Thanks to the amount of time saved via an aerial visual inspection (instead of a ground-level one), they’ll further boost their efficiency, creating more crops for everyone. As a result, they’ll feel less inclined to convert neighboring areas into farmland.
Agriculture is one of the oldest industries in the history of humankind. It’s also among the most important. Thankfully, farmers are the type who continue to see how emerging technologies can assist them in boosting production. As more governments lift restrictions on commercial drone usage, these vehicles will likely become a key component of the industry. When this happens, we can anticipate economic benefits, less hunger, and a cleaner, healthier planet.