Drones are now a leading technology in agriculture. By 2025, “agriculture drones” (farming drones) are expected to take up 80% of the commercial UAV market and generate 100,000 jobs according to a report by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
What Are Agriculture Drones?
Agriculture drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) used for precision agriculture, a modern farming method that relies on big data, aerial imagery and other means to optimize efficiency. After the drone collects images of the farm and makes a map that color-codes its areas by their health, the UAV company analyzes them for the farmer.
In recent years, they haven’t been significant to the agriculture industry, though this is likely to change due to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Section 333 exemption, which permits the use of commercial drones on an ad hoc basis. As restrictions have been relaxed, this is likely to change. Of the companies that have been using farming drones, some have been highly successful.
The California-based Vine Rangers, a company that offers “drones-as-a-service”, analyzing agriculture UAV image collection for vineyard farmers to help them maximize efficiency. Vine Rangers CEO David Baeza, who gave a TEDx talk about the company in January, has said “Before, farmers had to walk in rows in order to see what was wrong. Now, when they go into the vineyard, they already know what’s wrong.” Their business model – manufacturing drones and analyzing their information – is shared by other young companies, like Agribotix, which reviews the data collected by drones at any kind of farm, rather than a vineyard.
Economic Benefits of Farming Drones
Research by the Organization for Unmanned Vehicle Systems Worldwide suggests that along with the new job growth, the total economic impact of agriculture drones will be about $82.1 billion by 2025. Additionally, about $482 million would be made in tax revenue by the same time, provided that regulations are lax.
Though detailed knowledge of them is mostly limited to certain agriculture and investment circles, it’s likely that we’ll be hearing more about them soon considering their economic benefits. One thing is for sure: agriculture drones are here to stay.