It seems that hardly a day passes without a new UAV, software update or drone company hitting the market, and it’s overwhelming.
But through all the marketing campaigns, research and development projects, and breaking news stories there’s only one question that needs to be answered. What can a drone do for you and your farm?
The answer the drone industry points to is crop health technologies such as biomass measurements, chlorophyll quantification, and thermal monitoring. While useful information can be obtained using this technology, we at Green Aero Tech believe the benefits of this technology are (currently) overstated.
Yes, you can create highly detailed Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) maps to show biomass, but so what? We have spoken with a thousand farmers and heard a thousand different questions but almost every farmer has one in common; how do I use the data? Farmers want to know where to apply more fertilizer and how to setup their variable spray maps. Crop health data alone generally does not translate into easy answers to these questions.
This simple problem can take a $30,000 UAV and turn it into a waste of space… and believe me, there is more than one pricey footrest at Green Aero Tech headquarters.
There IS value in UAVs
We believe there is value in UAV crop health when the data is combined with agronomic expertise and boots on the ground understanding of the field. This is where drones alone are limited as a technology and it is part of the reason that we have teamed up with leading farm data organizations like Enns Brothers, Western Sales and Farmers Edge to help turn data into action.
We are not agronomists by trade, we are UAV specialists. It was a revelation to review our NDVI data with a trained agronomist who understood the field conditions. He was able to point out details to us such as where the farmer had experimented with different crop spacings, the location in which he had burned off his spray nozzles and where the old fence line had run in the field. By adding our data to his expertise he was able to make agronomic recommendations to his customer to help increase yields.
As much as we would like it to be, the crop health drone is not a silver bullet solution; but there is value for UAVs beyond crop health. A farmer once told us that nothing else matters until his water is under control. This simple statement drove us to answer whether drones could solve water management on the farm. We tried many different UAVs, sensors, and software packages to solve this farmer’s problem… and solve it we did.
We had to understand what problems farmers were facing when they approached a drainage project. What we learned was that producers need to understand the elevation of the field, where their water will accumulate and how they can direct excess moisture.
Using survey-grade UAVs and our own customized back end processing, we are able to create extremely accurate digital surface models with drainage analysis to help our customers understand where their water problems are… and how they can alleviate them. This is foundational field data and it pays off every year. Fields shed water more quickly, farmers operate sooner in spring and after rain, and they farm low lying areas that seem to get drowned out year after year.
So what can a drone do for your farm? It can provide critical information that helps you farm more land and increase yields in less time – but only if coupled with the ability to read the data correctly. At Green Aero Tech we take on that task for you by partnering with the companies that we do – let us tell you more about it, contact us today with no obligations.