Agricultural drones- the next seminal tool to double farmers’ incomeBy admin 28 November, 2019
India is an agronomic economy with 17-18% of India’s GDP contributed by the agricultural sector. With 58% of the country’s population dependent on agriculture, it is worrisome that farmers are becoming increasingly discontent with the return on investment (ROI) they receive from farming. According to paper published on NITI Aayog’s website, annual farm income per cultivator stood at INR 1,20,193 in 2015-16. Adjusted to inflation, a farmer’s annual income in 1993-94 was INR 21,110 and in 2015-16, it was INR 44,027. This represents a doubling of farmers’ income over a period of 26 years. If we are to grow as an economic powerhouse, it is imperative that we reduce this time period drastically.
With technologies and techniques now available to cater to individual standing crop in order to maximize the yields, it is increasingly becoming possible to earn more from same piece of land than it was ever before. Precision agriculture is one such farming management concept which is based upon measuring and responding to inter- and intra-field variability in crops. It relies upon specialized equipment to collect real-time data on the conditions of crops, soil and ambient air, along with other relevant information such as hyper-local weather predictions, labor costs and equipment availability. This data is processed to provide farmers with valuable insights on-crop rotation, optimal planting times, harvesting times and soil management.
While on-field sensors can measure soil moisture and temperature, satellites and drones can capture imagery that can be processed with the data from sensors to provide precise guidance on optimum application of water, fertilizers and especially, pesticides. This can help the farmer avoid wasting resources and prevent run-off reducing environmental impact.
Although it is presumed that drones are expensive, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Taking into consideration the increase in yield, savings on cost of resources as labor, fertilizer and pesticides etc. the benefits derived from drones can be substantial. Even though India is still in its nascent stage in the use of agricultural drones, companies are coming together to leverage their expertise and benefits of drones to deliver value to farmers.
The drones developed by various leading companies in India offer specialized solutions that can provide crop scouting/monitoring, crop volume and vigour assessments, crop inventory (plant counting), crop area calculations, farm boundary delineations, harvest planning and more. These drones have best-in-class flight time and range and can fly over large fields for longer durations to gather vegetation index images of the plant canopy to determine crop health indicators and assess damage for precision spraying.
The rugged drones can be deployed in varied weather conditions to generate reflectance and prescription maps that can be used to localize issues and apply location specific remedies. These drones are equipped with advanced automation and highly accurate GPS guidance systems that can provide accurate maps to guide farmers on optimizing the use of land, soil and variable rate application to reduce input costs and environmental impact.
Positive developments in the policies about agricultural drones can bring about a revolutionary change in the productivity and make agriculture sustainable.
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