Agriculture Drones Are Exploding!
Ian Wright posted on June 10, 2016 |
Market expected to grow from $864 million in 2016 to $4.2 billion by 2022.
Is this the future of farming?
Is this the future of farming?
Picture an idyllic walk through the countryside in 2022.

By then, the buzzing of bees could be drowned out by the buzzing of agriculture drones, according to a new market research report.

The global forecast by MarketsandMarkets predicts the agriculture drones market to grow from USD 864.4 million in 2016 to 4.2 billion by 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30.19 percent. That’s a staggering increase, but when you consider all the agricultural applications for drones, it’s not so surprising.


Agricultural Imaging Drones

Drones equipped with sensors such as infrared cameras can be used to monitor irrigation patterns, map soil variations or even detect pest and fungal infestations.  Although satellite imaging can also be used to monitor crops, drones offer a significantly cheaper alternative, which makes them especially attractive for small and independent farmers.

Sentera's Phoenix 2. (Image courtesy of Sentera.)
Sentera's Phoenix 2. (Image courtesy of Sentera.)
As an example, Sentera recently announced the release of its Phoenix 2 fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which is being marketed specifically to farmers.

"Growers are using the Phoenix 2 with agriculture-specific sensors to collect RGB, NIR and NDVI [normalized difference vegetation index] imagery. That imagery is so precise – [the growers] tell us they're targeting and treating specific parts of their fields, and then they're using fewer chemicals, saving money and increasing yields," said Todd Colten, chief aerospace engineer for Sentera.

The emphasis on agricultural imaging means that imaging software will play a key role in the growth of the agriculture drone market. For the same reason, imaging sensors are expected to capture the largest share of the agriculture drones market for software by 2022, according to the report.


Crop-Spraying Drones

The report also notes that the increasing adoption of crop-spraying drones could increase crop yields as well as reduce the wastage of fertilizers and pesticides. The report predicts that this will drive the growth of the crop-spraying drone market, though it’s unclear whether the potential risks of using drones that can directly intervene in the environment is being taken into account.

DJI's Agras MG-1. (Image courtesy of DJI.)
DJI's Agras MG-1. (Image courtesy of DJI.)
Consider DJI’s Agras MG-1, which was released late last year. It can carry up to 10 kilograms of liquid and covers 7-10 acres per hour at a maximum flying speed of eight meters per second. Although drones like the Agras MG-1 could revolutionize fertilization and pest control, they could also do the same for vandalism and chemical warfare.

DJI is a major player in the Asia-Pacific region, which is where the agriculture drones market is expected to grow at the fastest rate between 2016 and 2022. Although the report also states that North America is likely to hold the largest share of the market this year, China, India and Japan are all taking extensive initiatives, such as heavy R&D investments, to encourage the adoption of agriculture drones.


The Future of Farming

It’s remarkable that one of the oldest industries in civilization is still innovating. Of course, drones aren’t the only game-changing agricultural technology. Robotic automation is also having a major impact on the farming industry.

Indeed, advanced agricultural technology is becoming so ubiquitous that the farmers of tomorrow could very well be drawn from the engineering students of today. How will drones change the way we grow our food? Comment below.

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