As of 2020, there were 2 million farms spanning the US rural landscape (1), totaling approximately 896 million acres of farmland across the country (2).
Yet only two in five small farmers in the United States turn a profit each year (4). Given the vast expanse of farmland in the country, the maintenance and monitoring of crops, livestock, and land, whilst necessary, can be challenging.
The growing climate crisis poses further issues as environmental conditions are becoming increasingly volatile; the US Department of Agriculture estimates that extreme weather is responsible for 90% of crop losses.
For instance, in 2019, flooding in the Midwest US saw pastures and crops submerged underwater. Losses from wildfires in Northern and Southern California have topped $12 billion and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economists estimate that Hurricane Harvey caused over $200 million in crop and livestock losses. (5)
Vantage UAV drone-based services offer solutions to the agricultural sector as it faces uncontrollable, uncertain external factors and challenges. Providing accuracy, assurance and high-quality data provision and analysis drone technology ensures farmers and landowners are well- equipped and informed and land and stock management is efficient and easy.
- Field mapping
- Crop Health Assessment (Stand Count, flowering estimator, plant population/stress/disease analysis, pest analysis, water stress analysis)
- Treatment implementation/Crop dusting
- Livestock management
- Surveillance/perimeter management
- Remote sensing equipment
- Multi-spectral measurement
- Thermal imaging
- Weather damage assessment
Full, turn-key solutions and support
Vantage UAV deliver turnkey solutions from full project management, flight planning and piloting, offering comprehensive support from initial consultation to final report. Our range of services and industry experts allow us to craft bespoke solutions to data management and provision challenges.
Vantage UAV collaborate closely with clients to understand their challenges, workflow, aims and provide the best solutions. Support is always available, from real people, whenever you need it.
How can Vantage UAV benefit the agricultural sector?
For centuries, work within the agricultural sector has been labor intensive, time consuming and costly, involving the management of crop and livestock health and treatment and mitigating damage across vast land expanses.
Farmers, landowners and their land and stock are often at the mercy of environmental and organic conditions which can fluctuate unpredictably with devastating consequences.
But times are changing. As technology has advanced, so have the solutions to tackle the challenges faced by the agricultural sector….
Integrating drones into your workflow can increase yield, optimize land and stock management and health whilst significantly cutting cost and time. Agricultural drone solutions provide a competitive advantage in a sector with slim margins often threatened by unpredictable natural elements, delivering accuracy, assurance and equipping and informing landowners with high-quality, actionable data.
Whether you’re an independent farmer or a large-scale organization, Vantage UAV can help you to successfully integrate drones into your operations.
Key uses and Benefits of Drone Technology in the Agricultural Sector
Traditional methods of mapping land, manually, or by manned aircraft imagery or satellite, are inefficient, time consuming and often inaccurate. Drone technology is capable of mapping vast expanses of land precisely, in high resolution, within minutes.
Crop Health Assessment
The use of accurate plant health tools allows farmers or landowners to visualize and identify issues, enabling instant, informed decisions on land management.
When paired with multispectral cameras, drones capture critical, high-quality data on crop health and condition. Plant health algorithms NDVI and VARI capture proportions of light across different bands; plants that reflect green light are healthy, whilst those reflecting red light are not. Plants reflect near-infrared light that is invisible to the naked eye but can be detected with near-infrared sensors, offering valuable, exclusive insight on crop condition.
The accuracy and speed of drones when mapping enables early detection and treatment of crop disease, which minimizes the spread and damage, protects yield, and enables farmers to collect information to support insurance claims.
Advanced Crop Management
Data captured via drones can facilitate long-term decision making and makes advanced crop management easy and accessible. Data can be accessed to track crop progress regularly over long periods of time, enabling patterns and reoccurring problems to be recognized and remedied.
Advanced drone-based aerial surveys also increase efficiency and cut planting costs, which is particularly valuable when planting on sloping or compromised ground.
High-resolution aerial images captured via drones allows farmers to quickly quantify damage and act fast to mitigate loss. This can support farmers against crop insurance adjudicators, allowing them to inspect targeted areas and accurately evaluate crop damage or loss.
Aside from identifying issues, drones can also act as a vessel to treat them and implement practical solutions.
Drones can perform crop dusting, which involves directly spraying afflicted crops with pesticides, water, and other solutions. This method of application is quicker than patrolling a whole field to apply corrective products and increased accuracy results in less wastage and doesn’t expose workers to harmful chemicals.
Better Vantage Over Your Fields
Comprehensive sets of aerial data across entire fields eliminates inaccuracy or the need to extrapolate, enabling the correct course of action to be taken in specific geo-referenced areas. Such assessments provide a precise picture of overall crop health, loss, and underdeveloped growth.
Aerial mapping and imagery can provide key information which can aid farmers or landowners who are planning to sell or rent land or develop farm infrastructure.
Drones can effectively and efficiently manage and monitor livestock. Thermal cameras monitor early indicators of disease by detecting high temperatures in animals and locate lost livestock via body heat.
Drones can perform periodic perimeter checks and livestock counts to ensure animals are secure and have not escaped- such methods are useful in flood-prone or hard-to-reach areas.
Disaster risk management
Maintenance of hedgerows, field boundaries and public footpaths can be aided through drone mapping. Data gathered from the field can then be overlayed onto a map, showing the exact locations paths, hedgerows and field boundaries should be in comparison to reality, giving farmers and landowners greater control and management of their land.
Drone data allows you to document and measure the damage caused by fires, floods, adverse weather events, pests and more.
Year-round field management tool
Drone technology enables the analysis of drainage systems and can help to optimize irrigation.
Drones can assess subsurface drainage tiles using RGB imagery to show the differing levels of saturation and can detect potential pivot irrigation system issues using RGB or crop health map. This
allows excess water build-up below the surface to be detected before issues become visible above ground, meaning faults in the irrigation system, such as flat or sunken tires/clogged nozzles, can be fixed promptly.
Drones can also be used to inspect farm infrastructure, such as silos, hoppers, buildings, and animal sheds.
Pre-season soil detection – drones can be used to perform a pre-season earth map combined with ground-truthing, providing an overview of any pests or weeds that have arisen over wet periods. Tools can then be used to assess this data and plan a necessary course of action with location specific treatment.
Maps and data can be used to plan for the next growing season, meaning crop emergence and health over time can be monitored, charted, and compared with soil health, positioning and yields. This can facilitate plans to plant certain crop types, such as heavy rainfall resistant crops, in vulnerable areas to optimize yield and limit damage, preemptively.
Climate change is an ever-growing concern within the agricultural sector increasingly volatile, unpredictable weather conditions threaten land, stock and livelihoods.
Drones can help farmers and landowners to help mitigate these challenges by:
- Analysing drainage systems and optimising irrigation
- Assessing soil condition and type to tailor planting to maximize growth and protection when faced with extreme weather.
- Working to enable sustainable land management; the NFU advocate working ‘smarter’ to cut direct pollution, increase precision and decrease crop failure.
- Reducing Scope 1 emissions by using electrical sources to collect data in place of fossil fuel. Drone use drastically cuts emissions in comparison to alternatives such as small planes/helicopters to gather data.