Six Ways Drones Are Revolutionizing Agriculture

by Michael Mazur, PwC | July 20, 2016


“UAVs have been in use for nearly 40 years, but today are just beginning to see their heyday. “With the world’s population projected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, experts expect agricultural consumption to increase by nearly 70 percent over the same time period. In addition, extreme weather events are on the rise, creating additional obstacles to productivity.

“Drone technology will give the agriculture industry a high-technology makeover, with planning and strategy based on real-time data gathering and processing. 

Six Areas for Ag Drones

  1. Soil and field analysis through precise 3-D maps and planning seed patterns.
  2. Planting improvements to decrease planting costs by up to 85%. Drones would literally plant seeds.
  3. Crop spraying with hyper-focused application saving environmental and chemical costs.
  4. Crop monitoring.
  5. Irrigation improvements through hyperspectral, multispectral, and thermal sensors.
  6. Health assessments through scanning using visible and near-infrared light.

Mazur also discusses the potential for fleets/swarms of autonomous drones as hybrid aerial-ground teams. “…the biggest agricultural concern is the type and quality of data that can be captured. To address this, the industry will push for more sophisticated sensors and cameras, as well as look to develop drones that require minimal training and are highly automated.”

This piece does a good job overviewing the potential for drones in agriculture, but more importantly the what’s and why’s of their application to agriculture. These what’s and why’s do not necessarily have to be accomplished by what we know drones to be today. We might call them “probes” or “small robots” today rather than our general perception of drones as moving, flying, buzzing small craft.


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