A myriad of innovative new technologies around sensors and the collection and use of data from drones were showcased at the MobileTECH 2017 event run for primary industries in Rotorua in March of this year.
Foresters and resource managers late last year at the ForestTECH event run in New Zealand and Australia were also given updates on research and trials that were being undertaken in local forests. This article reviews the use of drones for agriculture (the research and analysis will be of use to inventory foresters as well) and provides a link to download the recent research from Sentera (image: Sentera).
I’ve been researching and writing about agriculture drone solutions since early 2012. I recently came across this OpEd in PrecisionAg titled Opinion: The Agricultural Drone War Is Over, And They Lost” and read it with great interest. Two and half years ago, our research indicated the same thing—that small drones might not be able to deliver more usable data to a farmer or provide a cost benefit over the existing image solutions available to them.
Even last year I had my doubts. In our June 2016 report, The Truth about Drones in Precision Agriculture, we looked at how drones have been used as remote sensing devices in agriculture thus far, reviewed competitive and traditional approaches using incumbent technology (like satellites and manned aircraft), and discussed the opportunities and challenges posed by the technology itself.
But a lot has changed since then. Agriculture drones have matured, and so have the sensors and analytical solutions that support them. A rising number of software vendors are targeting the agriculture space with increasingly useful solutions. And a new generation of drones is delivering much-needed functionality.
Not all agriculture drone solutions are created equal, so it pays to do a bit of research before committing. There are many factors to consider, from software compatibility to price to technical capabilities such as:
– Can you get all the components—drone, sensor, software, and analytics—from one company?
– Is an internet connection required in order to process data?
– Will it integrate well with your existing tools?
The research process to find the best solution can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but there is some good news. We’ve done a fair amount of this work already which you can access in our latest report, Using Drones to Ensure ROI in Precision Agriculture. You’ll also find a checklist there to help you determine which solution is the best fit.