Agriculture is perhaps the industry set to benefit most from the use of UAVs. There are many applications that UAVs can be used for in agriculture, including but not limited to:
- Remote sensing
- Frost mitigation
- Precision agriculture
- Variable rate dispersal
Japan has been using UAVs in farming since 1990 has led the way in their utilisation of UAVs. It is now estimated that unmanned helicopters are used to spray 40% of Japan’s rice fields with herbicides and fertilisers. It is estimated that this can improve crop yield by up to 40%. Even if yield is increased by 5% globally, this will result in billions of dollars in dividends globally globally, but perhaps more importantly it will also help to feed a booming global population that is expected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050.
Precision application that UAVs can provide is often vitally important, as the farm may only be five acres in size, and using a large helicopter can spread fertilizers over nearby homes, not to mention the added costs involved. Using Japan as an example, it’s a heavily populated country, with farms located in mountainous regions next to settlements, trees and buildings, so it’s not exactly the ideal landscape for using UAVs for crop dusting. However, the successful use in this environment demonstrates the potential for widespread use worldwide, particularly in large, flat farms with less surrounding establishments.