One of the most prevalent areas for drone use is within the agricultural industry, in which drones offer the potential to address several major challenges. Recently, Global Market Insights predicted that the agricultural drone market will surpass $1 billion by 2024. What drives that growth? Most likely it is the increasing technological advancements that are focused on enhancing quality farming techniques, and the increased need for automation due to the lack in skilled labor in that space.

Drones can improve many different aspects of the agricultural industry. For example, drones can carry out crop monitoring, soil assessment, review of plant population, irrigation and drainage, fertility and crop protection, spraying of fertilizer and pesticides, and harvest planning.

One specific example: a drone can fly over a farm property to take aerial images of the crops using red, green, blue, red edge, near-infrared, and thermal image bands. With those images, the farmer can then create normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) maps. Then these NDVI drone-created mapscan be used to help analyze and assess whether the target crop or area being observed contains live green vegetation or not. Digital surface maps, thermal maps, and other types of maps can also be generated using the images gathered by the drone. This information can increase crop production, lower water usage, and uncover many other types of issues, such as the presence (and prevalence) of pests. The infrared images can also help determine the health of crops. All of this can be done with the push of a button using a drone.

Why is this important? Not only does this help to fill some of the labor gap, but a farmer also now has the ability to gather and review this type of information so efficiently and effortlessly (and to adjust tactics and plans just as easily), that they can maintain (and keep) the farm running and producing crop. As the statistics show, drones are surely a vital technological component to the future of farming and agriculture.