Role of Agriculture Drones in Field Mapping

Over the past few decades, drones market has grown tremendously and marked its existence in every possible sector. The field of agriculture is also enticed by this turnkey solution. Every day the growth of population, land deterioration and environmental degradation demands innovation in the agricultural sector. So, when the drones entered in this market they got an unexpected boom. Drones in agricultural industry has extended its reach in several applications among which field mapping, crop scouting, crop spraying, and livestock monitoring are the major ones.

Digitization of field is the first objective accomplished by agriculture drones. A sensor mounted on drone acts as birds eye view of the sky and gather data. We are in the tech world where every development and decision depends on high-quality data. Field mapping is that step which collects data from drones and converts it into actionable maps. For every application, drones need to be powered by specific software. Mapping involves two software, first drone management software and second, post-processing mapping software. The role of post-processing software is to apply the appropriate algorithm and convert into high-quality maps. So what’s the use of mapping? The field mapping gives the crop health assessment, crop monitoring, and insurance services. Health assessment detects the diseases and identifies health issues afterwards overcome the failure. Crop monitoring track crop changes and if they fail to overcome the issues are compensated by insurance claims.

The first step to digitize the field is to deploy a drone. The drone manufacturer holds vital dominance in the mapping sector. Some of the major drone suppliers are Parrot, DJI, SenseFly, Sentera, Delair, Prioria robotics, Honeycomb Corporation, Event38 and, Hemav, etc. and it is worth to mention start-up companies like wingtra that entered in the market with advanced technology. Moreover, DJI which hold the largest drone market presence has a series of drone that equipped with sensor and mapping software. They have forged a number of partnerships with other software or service provider companies to offer mapping solution. Software companies like PrecisionHawk for integration of Datamapper software and DroneDeploy for thermal mapping solution. Even Sentera, a complete solution provider company has upgraded its sensors to offer compatibility with DJI drones. Another company, Parrot Group has acquired a list of companies in this sector including SenseFly, AIRINOV, and PIX4D. One of the most popular and in demand fixed-wing drone is SenseFly’s eBee SQ which is used for scouting and mapping. Software and sensor provider keep their products updated in order to assure full compatibility with drones. So, we can say that drone manufacturer have a huge influence in this sector.

Despite drones being the necessity, the real power lies with software.  Drone manufactures have their own software or collaborates with other companies to get a hold on software platforms. Wide range of drones’ software with highly confusing features are available today in the market. So the main question is how to choose the right mapping software.  Each software has a unique feature which attracts the consumers. As PIX4D is one of a leaders in the software market, it has specially designed the mapping software for the agricultural sector. PIX4Dag, is quite well known, which converts multispectral images into accurate maps. Followed by PIX4D is the company DroneDeploy, which offers live mapping feature with unique availability of 3rd party drone apps. PrecisionHawk has PrecisionMapper which automatically process data in 2D and 3D maps. Sentera’s AgVault platform offers tracking of crop’s growth, weed pressure, plant population, etc. There are several other software available in the market, the consumers just have to find which one is suitable for them depending their application needs and compatible with their drone hardware.

With all the benefits, there are few market restraints such as the collective cost of software and hardware which is unaffordable for individual consumers. The way out for this challenge could be the entry of drone mapping service providers. As the service providers either have their own drone hardware or the software, they could help the consumers to carry out the mapping operation at very affordable cost and wherever require. Few companies like FarmSolution, Empire unmanned, LLC. Deveron UAS Corp., FlyAgTech and Rocketmine are the leaders in providing agricultural mapping services. Apart for the service providers, sensor suppliers also play a vital role in this market. Parrot, Micasense, Sentera, and FLIR are the sensor providers that hold majority shares in this market.

Latest technology like hyperspectral sensors has taken mapping to a new level, where maps assist farmers in several ways, right from detecting the plant gap to identifying soil types. Maps show the accurate and apparent view of the field than photography; therefore, we can assume that field mapping has truly digitalized the agriculture or is the first step towards digitization.

Now the question arises that how farmers will cope with a bundle of data?  Will AI and big data become the next driving factor for mapping? As many companies pushing their luck in this trends so positively we don’t have to wait longer to see digital agriculture.

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