Drones: The Future of Agriculture

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IRVINE, California – Aerial Drones have become a central part of America’s development for defense against military attacks, but they are also poised to benefit America’s agriculture growth. The possibilities for drones go well beyond the military industry.

The new drone economy could provide new jobs while benefiting programs like search and rescue, energy production and agriculture development. The use of drones in the agriculture industry may have substantial benefits for the environment, as well.

Drones are changing the way information is collected in the sky. An unmanned aerial vehicle has applications to help farmers with practically everything, from making fertilizer use more efficient to spotting sick cattle.

“We are doing space stuff in agriculture. It is the way of the future,” says Rick DeRose from Syngenta Biotechnology.

The drone’s visual sensor can expose problems in agriculture that are not observable to the human eye. This means drones can help farmers find areas where soil is appropriate for any crop, and even areas where fungus is affecting crops. A drone can target and identify a pest, a disease or a nutrient problem in a field. This will substantially increase the production and safety of food.

The increase of the world population places stress on available environmental resources. The Democratic Republic of Congo, the country with the highest poverty rate, is expected to experience a population growth of 110 million people by 2050.

The pressure on industries to produce more food in order to meet the demands of the world’s global population is growing. Emerging technologies that provide framers with ways to optimize crop growth and development is sustainable in agriculture production and efficiency.

Bioagricultural companies research new ways to generate agriculture growth and production. Biotechnology and genetically modified foods are already a huge part of the agriculture industry; however, they do not serve as the safest way for agriculture production. Genetic modification in crops is known for allowing crops to better withstand drought, pests and herbicides. However, research has indicated that tiny organisms naturally found in the soil have either a beneficial relationship on modified plants or can potentially harm them.

Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration has limited drone use to strictly research purposes, and drones are not to be used or sold for commercial use.

In a memo issued by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2014, the organization clarified the agency’s ongoing ban on the use of drones for business activities without approval. This includes new opportunities in building toward a sustainable world. Industries including agriculture, construction, energy and supply transport are all impacted by the ban.

While the restrictions of drones are being maintained, researchers are demonstrating the technology’s potential in the agriculture industry. Researchers used miniature helicopters to apply chemicals to a crop in just the right location. Researchers were also able to determine the best place to apply chemicals by monitoring crops overtime, then analyzing crop data and information using software tools that are to be similar to that of a drone.

Approximate application of crop chemicals and fertilizers means that only the needed amount of fertilizer and chemicals are applied to a plant, saving more agriculture supplies and exposing the environment to fewer chemicals. Such investments could be a boon in the challenges that lie ahead among the population increase.

Sandy Phan

Sources: Syngenta Biotechnology, AUVSI, Population Reference Bureau
Photo: LA Times

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About Author

Sandy Phan

Sandy is from Pomona, California, but lives in Irvine where she attends the University of California, Irvine, studying sociology and cognitive sciences. Sandy came to The Borgen Project because she found it inspiring to read about different organizations and how dedicated they are to improving the world; it makes her want to write. Sandy is interested in reading about cosmology and painting, and incorporates her fascination with the cosmos in her art.

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