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Drones have taken a massive role in agriculture, and it is now one of their prime uses in the commercial sector. Drones are assisting in many aspects of agriculture, from spraying crops where it is estimated they can perform the task 40–60 times faster than is possible manually, to creating NVDI images of fields to assess crop health.
Some of the challenges they face, however, are the range and scale of the drones. For crop spraying drones, they are effective on hills, small areas, and in areas where other equipment cannot easily reach, however for crop spraying over large distances, they are less efficient and more costly than larger ground-based crop spraying equipment.
The same challenge can be seen in the area of NVDI imaging, where farmers obtain NVDI images to assess the plant health. Alternative solutions are airplanes and satellites. While drones are the most cost-effective for small areas, they are currently not competitive against planes and satellites for larger areas.
Finally, the cost is quite high for a lot of drones that are designed for agriculture use. This is likely because the industry is still exploring and testing uses in agriculture, and as a result manufacturing is being done on a small scale and the fixed costs remain high. Despite this, improvement is likely on the horizon. The DJI Agras MG-1 crop spraying drone, for example, has seen a steady reduction in its price from $14,999 to $4,999 over 2 years or so.
Despite the issues, drone technology is improving rapidly, and as a result, drones are likely to become more cost-effective, and useful in agriculture as time goes on. For more information on how drones are changing agriculture, check out our article, How Will Drones Change Agriculture.