5 Valuable Lessons Learned About Drones in Precision Agriculture

Interdrone - Colin Snow, CEO and Founder, Skylogic Research

Type: YouTube
Knowledge level: Intermediate

Farm Table says:

If you are interested, head to http://www.interdrone.com/5_lessons_drones_precision_agriculture?utm_source=Skylogic&utm_campaign=Agriculture_White_Paper_17&utm_content=Agriculture - to downlad the full report by Skylogic Research.

This short video introduces the viewer to a Skylogic Research white paper – 5 Valuable Lessons Learned About Drones in Precision Agriculture.

The report aims to look beyond the hype. The report notes that when you do, “you’ll find that drones are, in fact, proving real value to farmers on a daily basis. They are providing crucial crop vigour data that was previously unattainable or had taken hours to collect by ground vehicles or by foot”.

They pose the following questions:

  1. So what have agronomists and crop specialists learned about what works and what doesn’t?
  2. What have growers learned about operating their drones?
  3. And where do we go or what can we expect from here?

They break up their findings into a number of lessons:

Lesson 1: Drones provide more value than just NDVI imaging

  1. Drone maps can be used to:
  2. Crop scout to detect parasites and fungi
  3. Compile plant counts
  4. Analyze stand establishment
  5. Generate variable rate prescriptions for nitrogen and pesticides
  6. Assess and clean-up damage after a storm
  7. Negotiate fair crop loss percentages
  8. Assess slope and drainage after the harvest

Lesson 2: Using drone data for variable rate prescriptions is not a slam dunk

“To be clear, much of the workflow and data processing happens outside of the actual drone use and is much more complex than most drone solutions let on.”

Lesson 3: It pays to do your homework on agriculture drone solutions

There are many factors to consider, including:

  • 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?

Lesson 4: Calculating ROI is harder than you think, but worth the effort

The paper states:

To understand the value of any precision agriculture technology, you should calculate the “achieved cost savings” or “added yield.” But in most cases, a precision agriculture technology is an integrated part of a larger system (for example, the software that controls the auto-steer on a tractor), so it’s more difficult to show cause and effect. There are so many factors that affect cost savings or yield that trying to calculate it that way would understate the true impact of any one piece of technology. 

  • Drone-based data can impact outcomes in many ways such as: 
  • Reduced chemical use due to optimum distribution of agrochemicals 
  • Decreased weed and disease-related losses due to early detection and timely treatment
  • Reduced environmental impact due to selective application
  • Higher quality and healthier produce 
  • Better prediction and management of risks

We particularly like one comment found in the paper – “We think it’s best to understand that there are three parts to the equation: the drone, the sensor, and the data platform. All three need to be tightly coupled as an end-to-end solution.”

2017 - United States - Interdrone - Colin Snow, CEO and Founder, Skylogic Research
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