Drone use could save farmers time, cash
Drone technology will become more commonly used because it helps farmers make informed decisions, from seeding to harvest.
According to Stratus Imaging director Jonathan Smith, drones today are equipped with sensitive infra-red cameras for crop surveying and large chemical storage capacity.
He said Australia had been slow to use drone technology in agriculture but advances in the past few years had made their use a more tempting proposition.
“Drones can help farmers using yield maps from harvest, which had previously tended to be put away and not used as a means to increase productivity in following years,” he said.
“Near-infrared imagery can measure Normalized Difference Vegetation Index and scout crops with precision, which allows for in-season crop management decisions.”
Mr Smith said farmers couldn’t make informed choices on what they didn’t know.
“Many people drive around their paddocks taking samples and applying the principles as they’ve always done,” he said.
“They go to the places they typically go, looking at it all from ground level. Drones take management to the next level by giving them an aerial perspective.
“With above-crop sight using a multi-spectral camera taking five separate imageries, it will pick up diseases and stress in the crop which would be otherwise difficult to establish.”
Mr Smith said a common misconception with drones was they could diagnose crop health issues.
“The technology won’t tell you what the problem is but just where to go and take a sample,” he said. “That enables a farmer to develop a variable rate plan for remedying the issue.
“They will save a lot of money by not having to make 100 per cent spray applications, but instead only applying in the areas that need it.”
Mr Smith said he expected an “explosion” of drone use in agriculture shortly.
“Our company spent 18 months working through the barriers by speaking to people and also looking at how the technology has been applied to agriculture in other countries,” he said
“In Europe and America, drones have been used with encouraging results. It is saving farmers in those countries a lot of money and time.”
Stratus Imaging general manager Jonathon Smith with the latest technology AgRotor T6 crop-spraying drone, which has a 20 litre carrying capacity.