Table of Contents
Although drone technology has been in place since the 1980’s, over the last few years, the drone market has soared. (Pun intended.) As technology has improved, costs have decreased, and the available accessories and sensors have proliferated, making these unmanned air vehicles, or UAVs, an affordable and versatile tool in many industries, including legal hemp and cannabis. Growers and farmers are able to boost yields and minimize expenses by embracing drones for hemp farming.
From precision agriculture to data-driven insights, we scrutinize the nuanced impact on crop management, efficiency gains, and sustainable practices. This isn’t just about flying gadgets; it’s about redefining the very fabric of how we cultivate and understand crops. Buckle up for an insightful adventure into the world of agrotech evolution.
Smart Farming with Drones for Hemp Farming
In the realm of modern agriculture, the integration of smart farming practices heralds a new era, and drones emerge as the technological sentinels at the forefront of this evolution. Harnessing the power of GPS coordinates, these unmanned aerial vehicles become veritable champions of efficiency, effortlessly scanning vast expanses of land within minutes. Armed with an arsenal of sensors and cameras, drones elevate precision farming to an art form, creating a symbiotic dance between technology and agriculture that transforms the very fabric of traditional cultivation.
The marriage of technology and agriculture finds its zenith in the concept of “smart farming,” where the judicious use of data and technology converges to optimize every facet of the farming process. In the cannabis and broader crop cultivation arenas, drones play a pivotal role in this agricultural symphony, offering a myriad of ways to enhance productivity and elevate crop quality.
From monitoring plant health to identifying potential issues before they escalate, these airborne assistants contribute to a proactive approach in crop management. Precision becomes more than a buzzword; it becomes a tangible reality as drones provide farmers with real-time data, enabling informed decision-making that can significantly impact yield and quality outcomes.
Near Infrared Technology
Areas of crops may be affected by heat, stress, improper water, pests, and disease. No different than any other large field crop, monitoring the conditions of the entire field can be difficult. Using Near Infrared Technology, or NIR sensors, drones for hemp farming can provide growers with a bird’s eye view of the field and report back specific areas that may be in distress. The images are loaded into a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index to provide a detailed analysis map of the health of the crop, helping farmers identify the specific areas that may need extra water, nutrients, or other attention.
Chemical sprays such as pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are an integral part of large-scale farming. However, with NIR and drone technology, the environmental and human impact can be significantly reduced. When problem areas are identified by the NIR scan, different drones equipped with tanks and sprayers can be sent out to spot-treat just the areas that need it. This can reduce the amount of chemicals used, which is better for the farmer, for the consumer, and for the environment.
Equipped with various sensors like GPS, lasers, and ultrasonic echoing devices, the drones can apply chemicals with pinpoint accuracy. Plus, drones for hemp farming can do the work much faster, eliminating the need for manual labor in the field, and saving humans from chemical contact while spraying manually.
Irrigation and Spot-Nutrients
Farmers no longer need to irrigate entire fields or spread nutrients over healthy plants. Similar to chemical spraying, the NIR scan can help identify particular areas of the crop that may need water or other vital nutrients. Then, drones equipped with tanks can be sent to specific locations in the field to irrigate or feed just the areas of the crop that need it. Healthy crops stay healthy, while weak spots get the treatment they need.
One company, M3 Aerial Products, out of Canada, equips their drone with a 360-degree, 4D camera to provide images from within the field, even at the root level. A UAV pilot flies the drone over various locations in the field, which then lowers the 360-degree camera into the vegetation, recording the images of particular areas of stress identified by the data provided the NIR flight. This video shows how M3’s UAV solution can give valuable insight for the hemp farmer. Using virtual reality goggles, growers can “look around” problem areas without physically disturbing the crop.
Agricultural drone solutions are available in several packages ranging from around $3500 up to $12,000 or more. Drones have various flight times, and will generally be coupled with sophisticated software applications to program flight patterns, as well as, collect and analyze data. Sensefly, for example, offers their eBee SQ drone for just over $10,000. Their eMotion application provides flight planning, while a fully integrated Sequoia multispectral sensor captures data across four non-visible bands, plus visible RGB imagery to provide aerial insights that help monitor the conditions of the crop from planting to harvest, allowing cultivators to identify problem areas early to make any necessary adjustments.
Where dangers exist for human workers, or there’s a need to go where a human can’t go, drones may be the worker bees cultivators need. Imagine sending a fleet of drones out to irrigate a hemp field like “GPS-guided sentinels” on a mission. Combined with the increasing market of agricultural sensors, drones can help farmers optimize their approach to tending to the fields of any kind of crop.