Across the world, there are plenty of agricultural tasks even with a piece of farming equipment that is just too difficult or expensive for humans to carry out. This is why farming robots have become so popular of late. They can more easily tackle these complex jobs without getting tired or missing a beat. From driving tractors and spraying crops with pesticides to pruning trees and monitoring crop health, many people believe that robots will soon be able to do nearly all (or at least most) of the jobs on an industrial farm.
But what about those jobs where human hands still need to interact with plants? Today, this means picking fruit or vegetables off of plants or pruning specific types of plants by hand. While robots are likely able to take over many of these tasks within the next few years, there’s still one other technology that may be able to take on the hard work.
Drones! If you’ve never seen an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) up close, it might seem a bit silly to think of a drone as a future agricultural helper. But drones can do many jobs for farmers, from collecting data about plant health and productivity to spraying pesticides or delivering pesticides straight to plants. This article will look at five ways UAVs might help with everyday farming chores in the near future.
One of the biggest problems facing dairy cattle breeders is mastitis, an infection that causes chronic inflammation of the udder and makes it more difficult for cows to produce milk. Even with antibiotics, some cases of this infection can be fatal if not treated properly, but most dairy farmers don’t have enough staff members to keep constant watch over each cow.
Fortunately, drones could bridge this gap in many cases by allowing for continuous monitoring of herds at all times. And because mastitis infections often follow a particular pattern where they spread through groups of cows gradually rather than hitting them all at once, UAVs may soon be able to identify herds that are on the verge of a widespread outbreak before they do severe damage.
Cattle are hard to count. Even using trained individuals walking around a pasture with handheld clickers, studies have shown that it can be difficult for people to keep track of how many cows are in a field. Aerial counts of large herds may become less accurate if too much cloud cover or any individual cow blends into the background. But what if there was another way?
Drones may soon be able to precisely monitor the number of cows in each herd without even needing an observer to direct them. These devices could hover over a herd and use computer vision algorithms to identify individual animals. Using this method, it should be possible for UAVs to count herds regardless of weather conditions or the animals ‘ coloration accurately.
In parts of the world with limited access to fresh drinking water, it’s essential for farmers and governments alike to make sure that scarce supplies are allocated as efficiently as possible. In some cases, this means placing wells near herds so that they don’t need to walk too far for water. But in others, it might mean making sure that precious resources are saved for the animals that need them most.
Unfortunately, humans may not always identify which cows are suffering if they’re apart from their peers or sick themselves. But drones could soon change all of this by allowing farmers to monitor each individual cow whenever necessary. By flying over fields and identifying which ones have sick or malnourished cows, UAVs might soon be able to tell farmers who need extra resources in real-time.
Today, farmers rely on data from satellites and weather stations when planning their crops, but these sources are only so accurate. Some farmers might have access to aerial photographs to understand their crop looks. But even these photos are often too fuzzy or taken at the wrong time of year to be that valuable.
However, by flying drones around fields, farmers should soon have an easier time monitoring how healthy their crops are and identifying potential problems before they become serious issues. For example, by taking detailed infrared images of plants throughout the day, agricultural drones may soon be able to help farmers figure out which ones are getting enough sunlight to grow properly. Someday soon, it’s possible that drones could even monitor soil conditions and nutrient levels in real-time, producing data that would make it easier to determine precisely how much fertilizer each field needs.
Most industrialized nations have already seen a decline in the bee population over the past few decades, which has led many farms to change their pollination strategies or risk doing without key crops that rely on these insects. While some are looking into breeding more bees domestically, drones may provide another way for farmers to get the job done by flying around fields and mechanically transferring pollen between individual flowers. And while this still wouldn’t prevent bees from dying out completely, it might at least help ensure that future generations of humans aren’t left without access to certain types of food.