How are drones helping farmers with crop monitoring?

29th June 2021
Lanna Deamer

Not even the agriculture sector can escape the hype of drone technology. The European drones outlook study reports 150,000 agricultural drones will be used across European farms by 2035, undertaking tasks such as soil and field analysis, crop monitoring and spraying. Here, Chris Johnson, Managing Director at SMB Bearings, explains the value of agricultural drones and advises on the importance of bearing selection for these devices.

Pressure on the agriculture sector to feed the growing population is rising, leading to agricultural productivity levels increasing by 25 per cent to meet demands. Unfortunately, conventional farming techniques alone will not solve this production problem.

In response, farmers are increasingly employing automation technologies to augment their operations - whether its weed-killing robots, harvesting and picking robots, or autonomous tractors. But, despite the success of these precision technologies there is one key limitation - they are restricted to ground level operations. This is where agricultural drones can play an important role.

Crop monitoring

Crop monitoring by sky using agricultural drones is a great way for farmers to gain effective crop insights and the latest agricultural drones have a wide range of features. Firstly, mapping systems give farmers the power to analyse their crops and gain valuable data to guide decision making. In addition, drone devices can capture clear images of the crops from an aerial view.

Three of the most common images that provide insights into crop variability are colour (RGB), near infrared (NIR) and normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI). A feature like NDVI imagery can determine crop health by measuring the index of crop greenness. This allows farmers to track crop growth in-season and make comparisons.

What’s more, workers can proactively schedule and target various crop monitoring treatments such as fertiliser applications. These images along with the mapping system, ensure farmers are informed about irrigation, soil, and infestation dilemmas.

Agriculture spraying drones

Not only do crop spraying drones reduce labour-intensive work, but they also curb any risks involved with labourers encountering strong chemicals. Spraying drones can also target areas deemed inaccessible by ground.

By using the mapping system, farmers can perform aerial spraying on crops that require water or targeted treatment against pesticides. Some systems have a carrying capacity of over ten kilograms, holding tanks, pumps, and spray booms. This means they can cover 4,0000 square meters in ten minutes making spraying drones more efficient than conventional methods. To add to this, spraying drones help to reduce water consumption, and control the quality of the crop - saving time and money.

How to ensure your drone is up to the job

To ensure farmers can profit from the production gain of drone technology, it is important for maintenance engineers to guarantee high quality equipment. Given the cost of drone failure can be extortionate, it is important that high quality components such as EZO precision bearings are used.

One advantage of EZO precision bearings is that they can be used for drone motors with a low vibration and noise level. Shielded EZO bearings are lubricated for life with a low noise, low torque grease, reducing the risk of bearing failure. Agricultural drones are required to operate in extreme weather conditions, so it is crucial to seek advice from a reliable parts supplier like SMB Bearings who can supply the correct bearings for your specific operating environment.

The agriculture sector is depending more and more on automation and robotics to help meet the demands of a growing population. It is vital for farmers to plan ahead, by investing in the right equipment, to guarantee productivity levels are not overstretched. Meanwhile, agricultural drone makers need to team up with the best component suppliers to ensure happy customers and an extended drone service life.

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