In previous posts we have been commenting on different applications where drones provide great advantages in different activities in industry and services.
Today we are going to comment on another different aspect: how UAS can contribute to the development of a more efficient agriculture, and we will propose a perhaps novel vision in an activity that is not very widespread, but high technology.
The primary sector has been incorporating new technologies, reaching high levels of modernization, making crops more efficient, giving rise to what we can call intelligent agriculture. Consumption and energy savings are being achieved, reducing polluting aspects, optimizing inputs, etc. On the other hand, the increase in the size of farms, favors the increase in the volume of tasks, such as surveillance, irrigation, controls, fumigation, sowing, pruning, etc., in short, an increase in activity and workload.
The UAS have found a place where their use presents great possibilities, in a fairly simple way and with the advantage that operations are carried out in areas and places where it is easier to operate according to regulations.
Jobs such as crop monitoring, 3D topographic surveys, fertilizer and pesticide discharges, crop maturity and status detection, optimization of areas to be irrigated, problem detection, etc., are nowadays activities that are more and more frequent and a field of activity for drone operators.
But there is an agricultural activity that perhaps presents the highest degree of modernization and the highest level of profitability and productivity. We are referring to extensive greenhouses.
In order to be able to perform tasks in the greenhouse with a UAV, there are two conditions that must be met and that leaves few options in the drone market. On the one hand, they must be able to fly without the help of GPS coverage, and on the other hand, they must fly fully autonomously and automatically.
Most of the tasks inside a greenhouse are performed repetitively, so the operation of the drone must be periodic and automatic. Instead of workers constantly visiting the greenhouse and observing changes, it is more logical that these activities are carried out by a UAV, which is in the greenhouse and performs the tasks at certain time intervals. The basic needs for this is to provide the UAV with location and mapping capability in the indoor environment. With this ability, the 3D position of the UAV in the greenhouse can be obtained at any time. In addition, it must have the ability to automatically charge its batteries when it is in the standby phase.
The first of the indicated qualities is summarized in that the drone has the capacity of SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping), a technique by which, using only its on-board sensors, it builds a map of its environment, which it uses at the same time to locate and establish fixed references.
Greenhouses constitute, beyond what we already mentioned in the foreign field as intelligent agriculture, a true precision agriculture.
There are not many references to the use of UAS inside greenhouses, perhaps due to the characteristics that we have already mentioned and that reduce the number of drones capable of carrying out these operations to a minimum, but the advantages for the yield and control of these agricultural crops are enormous. Anyone who knows this type of farm knows that constant controls and monitoring of the state of the plants or crops are required. Carrying out these tasks in very large greenhouses using an autonomous UAV instead of using personnel will make a great contribution to precision agriculture.
Individual monitoring of each plant with automatic measurement of its evolution. weed detection, yield estimation, disease detection, temperature stress detection, data integration and results with the greenhouse’s own sensors, image analysis by AI, transfer of information and data to remote places, etc., constitute a whole challenge to implement adaptations to indoor UAS so that they are a great ally of what we have called precision agriculture.
Aertos 130IR, the best tool for indoor operations.