Drone usage in agriculture : towards a new era
Faced with the arrival of societal and environmental issues and the growing demand for scarce labor experienced by the world of agriculture, it must adapt and modernize to meet the new challenges it must face. With the massive arrival of on-board and communication technologies on farms, agriculture is experiencing a new mutation which tends to take a digital shift which is characterized by: IT, communications, robotics, or even the collection of data. It is in this new context that the drone becomes an essential tool and offers many solutions for decision support, analysis, monitoring and treatment in crops.
What is precision farming and how are drones currently used in agriculture ?
To accompany these new changes, precision agriculture has emerged, but what is it exactly ?
The principle of precision agriculture is to collect data in order to optimize the management allowing to significantly increase the yields of a crop while reducing the consumption of energy, water or inputs thanks to to new technologies. The idea being to produce more with fewer resources or at least to produce as much, but with processes that respect the environment more.
To achieve this, this process uses advanced technologies such as: satellites, drones or connected sensors that are combined with tools capable of collecting and processing information. This new way of working serves to improve the daily lives of farmers.
2. What can drones do for agriculture ?
As more and more industries seek modern, inventive solutions to sustainability and productivity issues, drone technology has become an indispensable tool for making better decisions in the agricultural world.
Agriculture is one of the first sectors where unpredictable weather conditions, irrigation problems, pest control, and even crop diseases can have a significant impact on the management, profitability and efficiency of crops. agricultural exploitations. Traditional methods of dealing with these issues are still possible, but they are expensive, time-consuming, and often harmful to the environment for everyone involved.
Drones offer several tools to overcome all these problems in a much faster, more sustainable and less expensive way. These benefits are key issues that allow for better performance and real time savings throughout the year.
3. What is drone assisted crop monitoring ?
At first, the drone proves to be a real ally in monitoring plots and pastures with an overview. The main objective will be to acquire concrete information more quickly without having to travel.
The drone, for surveillance, can become a daily tool for agronomists and farmers to perform the following tasks, for example :
- Monitor herds and agricultural plots ;
- Scare away pests while respecting them, due to the regular passage of the drone in the farm ;
- Detection of weed outbreaks ;
- Observe crop damage.
Thanks to these multiple on-board sensor possibilities, the drone also makes it possible to measure many indicators on the state and needs of crops. Indeed, data collection brings precise information and can provide valuable information.
The drone can also take precise data samples that used to be done manually. All these operations will be carried out much more easily and with significant time savings.
4. How drones help with agricultural mapping? What are the advantages ?
The drone also has other advantages, such as the mapping of agricultural land and infrastructure. The drone can be equipped with different sensors allowing the collection of specific information and a GPS which records several geolocated images. Thanks to this information, the farmer can precisely adapt the level of fertilizer and/or water to be applied thanks to the different analyses. As a result, yields are improved, allowing a return on investment. The drone is accompanied by several photo processing software, which can be used for other purposes :
- Field area calculation ;
- 3D modelling: can help to obtain the direction of rainwater flows ;
- Calculation of a slope ;
- Calculation of the vegetation index.
With the latest technologies on board a drone, these surveys can be carried out with centimeter precision.
5. What regulations apply for the use of drones in agricultural areas in Canada ?
In 2019, new regulations were put in place by Transport Canada to regulate the use of drones between 250 g and 25 kg. To do this, pilot certificates have been divided into two categories: basic operations which allow piloting a drone in a “general” environment and advanced operations which allow piloting a drone in a “controlled area” environment.
Basic operations also allow you to use your drone in these 5 scenarios :
- You are flying your drone in uncontrolled airspace ;
- You fly your drone a horizontal distance of more than 30 meters (100 feet) from passers-by ;
- You are flying your drone more than 3 nautical miles (5 kilometers) from a certified airport or military airfield ;
- You fly your drone more than a nautical mile (about 2 kilometers) from a certified heliport ;
- You do not exceed an altitude of 120 meters (400 feet).
If applicable, if you do not meet any of these 5 conditions, you must complete your advanced operations training program.
If you fly a drone without meeting these requirements, you could be fined, ranging from $1,000 for individuals who use a drone recreationally to $5,000 for businesses who use a drone for commercial purposes. commercial purpose.
In addition, it is essential to register your drone with Transport Canada and display it on your aircraft.
What are the best commercial drones for agriculture?
Today, the drone market is booming and there are many brands and models available in the market. In order to better guide you in your research, we have selected the three drones that are the most optimized for agricultural operations by the manufacturer DJI.
The Phantom series from the DJI company no longer has to prove itself. The DJI Phantom 4 RTK, on the other hand, is ideal for mapping at low altitudes with very high precision.
This model offers a flight time of 30 minutes and a control range of 7 km. Positioning data, to the nearest centimeter, is collected in real time.
The mechanical shutter allows the drone to take moving photos without creating a blurring effect. Missions can be planned and viewed on an integrated HD screen.
A little less suitable for the agricultural environment, the Matrice 300 RTK is a commercial drone inspired by aviation systems.
The Matrice 300 RTK can accommodate up to three cameras, for a maximum payload of 2.7 kg and it can fly for up to 55 minutes. It can be used at temperatures ranging from -20°C to 50°C.
Basically, this drone is supplied without a camera. It can be configured as needed by installing, for example, a multispectral camera such as Altum-PT or the RedEdge series camera from MicaSense.
It is a camera that has multispectral, thermal and panchromatic bands, offering good data resolution. This makes this sensor an ideal solution for crop management applications in agriculture.
It is a robust and precise multispectral camera for advanced agricultural analysis. This high performance tool captures both the spectral bands required for crop vegetation indices (blue, green, red, red edge and near infrared), composite RGB images.
The Phantom Multispectral drone is specially designed for agricultural missions. For comparison, this model has much more complex technology than the Phantom 4 RTK. On this device, there is a multispectral camera equipped with specialized sensors for the needs of farmers.
This drone collects precise information, which makes it possible to target interventions in the fields. The imaging system includes an RGB camera to take standard photos and videos as well as a multispectral camera equipped with 5 sensors.
The DJI P4 Multispectral drone offers a flight time of approximately 27 minutes and a control range of 7 km.
How can DroneXperts support you in your agricultural challenges ?
Buying a drone
Buying a drone is a task that can quickly become complex as the fields of action, models, technologies or even brands can be numerous. This is why DroneXperts supports you from the beginning to the end of your acquisition project by defining with you your needs and challenges. Our team of representatives will listen to you and take the time to define the problem with you in order to provide you with the most appropriate solution.
Training for the use of drones and these technologies for agriculture.
In order to be able to correctly and autonomously use the technology embedded in the drone, you will have the possibility of following one or more training courses depending on your current level.
Embedded drone technology represents a real solution to new agricultural challenges, however, it is important to master this new method and interpret it correctly. To do this, DroneXperts offers several solutions: Pix4D training, multispectral training and pilot training in advanced operations.
Note that since 2013, DroneXperts has been the center of expertise and the leader in the field of drone pilot training in Canada. Beyond providing simple training, you will have access to complete and tailor-made support.
The PiX4D solution is a complete set of analysis and data processing tools for sustainable agriculture. Among these different tools, we find, for example, Pix4Dcapture, which makes it possible to plan and execute drone flights and optimize imagery for agricultural mapping. You will also have access to Pix4Dfield which is advanced agricultural mapping software for quick mapping and analysis in the office and in the field. Pix4Dmapper is an advanced photogrammetry software for volume measurement and 3D or digital surface models. These three examples come to complete a suite of software which will bring you other tools and which represents complete, powerful and innovating solutions for the agriculture of tomorrow.
This training is intended for people wishing to acquire the technology of multispectral cameras as part of a professional activity. During this training, we will introduce you to the basics of this technology, we will see its main uses and applications and the interpretation of the results from your data.
This training prepares you for the drone pilot certificate issued by Transport Canada, which is necessary for drone piloting and requires a lot of specific knowledge that is difficult to know without being properly guided.
Always on the lookout for changes in Transport Canada regulations, we have developed a set of training courses aimed at :
- Make you the elite drone pilots of Canada ;
- Introduction to the technology embedded in the drone ;
- You bring the latest changes to Transport Canada regulations.
Our training courses are aimed at all people who wish to improve their skills in drone piloting or all managers who wish to train one or more pilots in-house.
Whatever your current level of pilot training, we have training that adapts to your needs to make you pilots certified by Transport Canada.
Although the purchase of a drone accompanied by training is a sustainable solution, DroneXperts’ service offers can provide you with a very good alternative in solving your agricultural challenges. Indeed, by being the pioneer and leader in Canada of technology embedded in a drone, we offer several services :
- Irrigation analysis with thermal camera (thanks to one of our partners) ;
- Detection of the presence of: water stress, fungi, parasites and other diseases using a multispectral camera ;
- Plant identification (plants vs. non-plants) by multispectral camera ;
- Topographic field survey with photo camera and Lidar ;
- Inventory and plant mapping by photo camera ;
- Monitoring of events such as fires and cuts by photo camera.