Drones in Agriculture
Integrating drone technology in agriculture is a prime example of innovation revolutionising traditional industries. With the world's population projected to reach 9 billion by 2050, the need to increase food production has never been more pressing. To meet the increasing demand for calories, we must turn to innovative and data-driven solutions, and drones are proving to be a game-changer in agriculture. By leveraging the power of drones, we can maximise production efficiency and ensure a secure food supply for generations to come. However, to truly maximize the potential of drone technology in agriculture, it is essential that governments, technology leaders, and the agriculture sector come together to collaborate and drive progress.

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Unleashing the Power of Precision Agriculture

According to a PwC report, drones are poised to deliver a staggering $32.4 billion economic value to farmers through their innovative applications. Drone technology provides farmers with a comprehensive and detailed understanding of their land and crops, enabling them to plan, execute, and respond more accurately. With drone-powered remote sensing and operation capabilities, farmers can take full advantage of innovative solutions such as planting and spraying, surveying and mapping, environmental monitoring, and inspection. Precision agriculture, focusing on profitability, sustainability, and environmental preservation, is one of the most significant benefits of drone technology in agriculture. In addition, drones provide access to information beyond what the human eye can see, including vegetation index data such as NDRE and NDVI, allowing farmers to make informed crop treatment decisions and increase yields while reducing waste and saving resources.

Use case in UAE

Let’s look at some inspiring real-life examples of the applications of Drones in the Agricultural sector.

Palm Trees are a symbol of agricultural heritage in the United Arab Emirates. Date palms account for 98% of fruit trees in the UAE, and this country is one of the world’s top 10 producers of dates. Palm trees span more than 13,000 square kilometres over the MENA region. It goes without saying how crucial it is to Keep track of palm trees, as it assists farmers and agronomists in estimating productivity, developing irrigation plans, and allocating resources more efficiently. This used to be a manual process; tree counting was traditionally time-consuming and labour-intensive. Typically, workers would drive and walk around fields, meticulously counting the trees. In addition to being physically demanding, this also leads to low accuracy. Although Satellite imaging is another option, the resolution usually needs to be improved.

Here’s how the Dubai-based Drone Company FEDS Drone-powered Solutions counted palm trees in the UAE with the help of drones. Drone data paired with Artificial Intelligence provided an accurate evaluation of palm tree plantations that brought meaningful impacts in both economic and ecological aspects. Drones covered large areas in concise periods, and the “counting” – the most time-consuming part – was efficiently carried out by the well-trained AI detector. Counting and quantifying palm trees provided an inventory of the tree plantation translating to well-planned irrigation processes. Likewise, the exact number of trees helped predict the production date. It enabled the farmers and decision-makers with real-time monitoring, improved productivity, and contributed to securing sustainable production and food security.

Counting palm trees using drone data and AI
Counting palm trees using drone data and AI

Here is an even more challenging yet exciting case study of how they counted the camels, trees, plants and livestock by mapping 1,100 sq km of farmland. Without Drones, it would have taken years to aggregate such massive data for a sustainable agricultural strategy. “To save time and preserve data integrity, we had to innovate; we had to build our Machine Learning algorithm and put it to use. As a result, our client, could accurately analyse farmlands and their status. With this information, they could better direct local farmers and advise them on how many resources they needed and what crops to produce for better results.” Rabih Bou Rached, Founder and CEO of FEDS Group, explained. You may click here to read the entire article.

What is the Matrice 350 RTK? 

Matrice 350 RTK is DJI’s latest flagship drone, it builds on the successes of its predecessor the M300 and comes with a range of upgrades. With its upgraded capabilities the drone offers significant improvements in terms of aerial operations in industries such as public safety, infrastructure, mapping, energy and more. 

AI object detection
AI algorithms automatically identify different objects within images - Credit: FEDS Drone-powered Solutions

The Future of Precision Agriculture

The agricultural industry faces numerous challenges in meeting the calorie demands of a rapidly growing global population. Supply chain disruptions, unfavourable weather conditions, and crop diseases are some of the risks the sector must overcome. The solution to these persistent problems lies in precision agriculture, which is why there has been a massive shift towards adopting innovative technologies like agricultural drones. Drones provide a safer, faster, more efficient, and more productive way of farming. This positively impacts farmers, organisations, policymakers, and humanity. With the increasing demand for food and the need for sustainable agriculture, it is clear that agricultural drones will continue to play a critical role in the success of the agricultural industry.

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