Sunday, 14 August, 2022

Usage of Drones in Agriculture

Dr. M. Jamal Uddin

Usage of Drones in Agriculture
Dr. M. Jamal Uddin

The use of drones in agriculture is increasing worldwide as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The 4IR is a digital revolution. It is an ongoing process of automating conventional manufacturing and industrial systems, using modern technology. In the case of previous industrial revolutions, people have been operating the machine. But during the 4IR, the instrument will be operated with artificial intelligence. The mechanization of agriculture is advancing rapidly all over the world. Bangladesh is also moving forward at a relentless pace.

In agriculture, monitoring the overall condition of crop fields, pesticide sprays, drip irrigation and many other things can be done using drones. By integrating and customizing artificial intelligence with drones, it is possible to tell the overall condition of an area, including latitude and longitude. Drones can be used to determine soil moisture, verify the presence of different elements, and design crops according to the amount of land. Many times, a lot of space is wasted when planting crops on large land. However, if you can calculate where, how, and how many to plant in advance by drone, it is possible to reduce the waste of space.

Drones are also used for planting seeds after collecting all the information about the land. China and Japan have already started using special drones, which can plant seeds from a little above the ground. Easily controllable drones will be able to plant seeds in a short period of time on large plots of land, which currently require a lot of time and manpower. At present, drones are known to be able to plant more than 90 percent of the seeds in the right place, keeping the planting pattern correct.

Imaging technology can be used to detect insect infestations in certain parts of the crop. By analyzing the data of the camera used in the drone, it is easy to know whether a particular insect has attacked or not, and how much grain has been attacked in any part. The interesting thing is, now we have to apply pesticides, which drones can do effortlessly! It just needs to be instructed where and how much pesticide should be applied.

The thermal technology used in the drone is capable of collecting soil temperature data from all over the cropland. By analyzing the data, it will be possible to know if there is a shortage of water in the soil of a place, and also on the basis of the presence of water, whether the crops are getting the right amount of water. This will prevent water wastage in the future and at the same, the crop will damage due to excess water intake.

With the help of visible light and infrared technology, the presence of bacterial or fungal attacks on each plant and crop can be detected separately. If a farmer wants, he can look at the specific crop separately or he can give the responsibility to the drone! This will completely protect the crop from attack during the growing season and the farmer will also be able to bring the desired crop home.

Drones have entered the Indian market quite quickly. The country has issued a Standard Operating System (SOP) for the use of drones for spraying pesticides in agriculture. Most people there think of these drones as data collection devices with cameras, sensors, mounted on them for crop evaluation and digitization of land records. However, drones can be used for much more purposes. An excellent example of a Kisan drone is its use as a pesticide sprayer (flying sprayer). These drones have capacity tanks up to 5-10 kg filled with pesticides and liquid fertilizers. In addition, drones save a lot of time and labor by being able to spray pesticides on about one acre of land in just 15 minutes. It can save farmers up to 90 percent of the chemical cost. Drone technology can detect weeds in green-on-brown or green-on-green conditions. 

Drone service is initially expensive. But it will eventually become cheaper. We also need to consider the cost of human health when spraying insecticides manually as opposed to drone spraying. The use of drone technology in agricultural research has opened a new chapter in Bangladesh at a seminar on 'Exploring the Utility of Drone Based Multispectral Imagery in Agricultural Research' organized by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University last year. Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor Prof. Dr. Ghiyasuddin Mia said the use of drone technology in agricultural research has started a new chapter in Bangladesh.

With the approval of the Ministry of Defense and Agriculture of the Government of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, Twentieth University of the Netherlands and International Maize and Wheat Development Center jointly undertook modern, advanced and effective technology manned agricultural research in the country under a project. Drones are known to be used successfully in agricultural research in many developed countries around the world, including the United States.

The demand for drones from farmers in different countries is increasing dramatically. The technology has developed rapidly over the last two or three years, based on the number of filters and software currently available for use with drones. Attempts are currently being made to increase agricultural production using drones in all six agricultural states in South Africa. Drones have been flying overhead in agricultural areas lately. According to experts, even if certain boundaries of the garden can be monitored throughout the day, it is not possible to monitor the entire area. Drones are solving that problem. This small flying machine is operated from a distance to keep an eye on the entire garden.

The use of drones in agriculture is increasing the yield of crops in that country. The question may arise, what exactly is the relationship of drones with the increase in agricultural production? The answer is that somewhere the amount of water has decreased and the crop has become dry, or the crop has decreased in some part of the farm, and somewhere the soil moisture is maintained - all this information can be known from the pictures taken with the help of drones. As a result, there are many advantages including easing problem solution. Local farms in Africa are benefiting from the use of drones.

According to a recent report in Africa, the world's population will reach ten billion by 2050. To provide food for this huge number of people, the world's agricultural production must increase by at least 70 percent. It should be noted that since two-thirds of the world's unused arable land is in Africa, African countries have to play an important role in this regard because, in the opinion of scientists, it is possible to increase agricultural production by drones.

In Bangladesh, there are a number of limitations to the use of drones in agriculture, including technical knowledge, skilled manpower for drone operations and data analysis, and the cost of Internet facilities. With that in mind, if we can increase the use of technology like drones, it will be possible to make agriculture attractive to the younger generation. And this is called smart farming. If the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be harnessed to ensure the food security of the growing population by tackling the effects of climate in the future, the benefits will be much greater.


The writer is an Agricultural Economist and Senior Scientist, BARI