Amazon was recently put under the microscope for their new plan to use unmanned
drones for a delivery program called Prime Air. An alien concept to many, this announcement was met with a variety of reactions, mostly because people do not know that the use of drones is actually very common.
Drones can be used for many things, but what is most surprising is the rising use of these
devices in the agriculture industry. Take a look at the chart below:
By 2015, agriculture is expected to be the largest domestic market for drone purchases, generating around $2 billion in revenue. In fact, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International predicts the commercial market for drones will eventually reach 80 percent for agricultural uses. Why is this?
There are many facts that suggest that drones are the next big thing in farming, many which have caught the attention of farmers all over the country.
The main selling point in support of using drones in agricultural production is the
extensive amount of data that drones can collect in a small amount of time. Drones can provide three different views for farmers who would otherwise be unable to collect data from these angles.
o Aerial angles that can inspect crop patterns and discover irrigation issues, soil variation, pest and fungal infestations. This view can also be used to track cattle and other livestock herds to search for missing animals or analyze behavior to identify illness or aggression within a herd.
o Multispectral infrared or visual views, which can indicate differences between healthy and distressed plants; data that would be unobtainable without this kind of technology.
o Continual checks hourly, daily or weekly based on farmers’ needs. These are important because they can monitor changes and reveal trouble spots throughout the day at a much more efficient rate than any human.
Not only do drones save valuable time for farmers, they are also an investment that can
help farmers save money in the long run. Drones can be purchased at a cost as low as $1,000 per drone, compared to the $1,000/hour that crop imaging with a manned aircraft
could cost. By purchasing a low-cost drone, farmers could see a return on
investment in as little as a year, which could be huge for the agriculture and food
Need another selling point? As the drone production market expands, so do American jobs. With more than 50 companies and organizations working to develop new drone models, the industry could create more than 100,000 jobs and nearly half a billion in tax revenue by 2025.
As the demand for agricultural resources increases, it will become increasingly important to make farming more efficient to produce higher crop yields in a lower
amount of time. It will be interesting to see the percentage of farmers who jump on the
drone bandwagon to stay on top of this demand. Do you believe national usage rates will reach the predicted level?
Want to know what farmers are saying? Check out this NPR exclusive interview with a farmer who has already integrated drones into his production process.
Photos courtesy of pbs.org, robohub.org, farmingdrones.com, suasnews.com, climate-kic.org