Farming and Agriculture

Drones and AI in agriculture

AI IN AGRICULTURE

The artificial intelligence (AI) market in agriculture is expected to register a CAGR of over 21.52%, during the forecast period of 2019 – 2024.

Drones in agriculture

Increased use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, or drones)) across agricultural farms is driving the market as the use of drones in the agriculture industry can be use in crop field scanning with compact multispectral imaging sensors, GPS map creation through onboard cameras, heavy payload transportation, and livestock monitoring with thermal-imaging camera-equipped drones, which increases the demand of UAVs.

Agricultural consumption to increase by 70%

As global population projected to reach over 9 billion by 2050, agricultural consumption is expected to increase by a massive 70%, raising the question how the growing demand for food is going to be met.
With over eight billion human mouths expected to be fed by the year 2030, humans have their limits; they cannot work 24 hours a day to oversee thousands of acres of crops and grow more food.

Technology to the rescue

Drones, with artificial intelligence (AI), are now being mainstreamed for smart farming assisting farmers in a range of tasks from analysis and planning to the actual planting of crops, and the subsequent monitoring of fields to ascertain health and growth. Paired with drones AI is able to assist farmers on farming practices across the full farming value chain to further analyse aerial images and give agriculturists data that can help them lower planting costs, cut down water and fertilizer use, and monitor crop health.

Figure 1 Drones supporting agricultural value chain 
Agriculture drone technical features

Smart measurements
Drones equipped with hyperspectral, multispectral, or thermal sensors are able to identify areas that require changes in irrigation. Once crops have started growing, these sensors are able to calculate their vegetation index, and indicator of health through AI, by measuring the crop’s heat signature

Extreme precision
Smart farming drones come equipped with sprayers and ultrasonic echoing devices and lasers, which can measure distance with extreme precision. The result is a massive reduction in overall spray and a much lower chemical level reaching the groundwater.

Internet of the Soil
Like with IOT (Internet of Things), IOS (‘Internet of the Soil’) is an approach where soil conditions like humidity, temperature, electrical conductivity, are being monitored. Sensors connect wirelessly to a cloud-based platform where it can be accessed by any internet-connected device.

Focussed optimisation

With a focus on all aspects of farm optimization, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and in-field data integrated into drones with computer vision technology can provide all kinds of essential data that can help farmers optimise irrigation and plan the best time for harvest. With weather data, highly localised weather forecasts assists with real-time actionable recommendations tailored to the specific needs of individual fields/crops.

Flying Robots – what the human eye cannot see

Drones can vary their height as needed, or even hover around a POI (Point of Interest) capturing high-resolution photos from above and provide detail not easily seen from ground level or a level of resolution not easily achieved with a human eye. These new features allow potential issues to be recognised which might not have been otherwise and are transforming the way crops are planted and future production are planned.

Drone Planting – 85% more

It is reported that drones can decrease the costs of planting by as much as 85% growing more crops without the need for additional manpower. Planting drones can be fitted with pod shooters that launch seeds or nutrients straight into crop fields. Planting much faster and more efficiently at a plantation rate would be over 700-800 plants an hour. Manually it would take up to two days to finish the same task.

Drone Spraying- 5x faster

Drones are also ideal for crop spraying by scanning the field first and calibrating the exact amount of water or fertilizer to be sprayed in the correct areas.. It is reported that drones based crop spraying can be done five times faster than traditional farm machinery.

Conclusion

Drones and artificial intelligence are representing the ability to scale how crops are produced and provide a solution of how to feed a planet of 8-billion people by 2030.