Big growth in agriculture drones reported during the past year

Business drone use has increased significantly during COVID-19. Perhaps in response to this, in the U.S. the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has loosened drone operation rules. This is in response to both business and commercial use. In relation to business applications, a recent Forrester study predicted that 1 out of 5 global businesses will use commercial drones sometime during 2021. One of the primary industries set to adopt drones at a higher rate is with agriculture.

To survey the uptake in industry, the enterprise drone data platform DroneDeploy has released its 2021 State of the Industry Report. This report reveals how agriculture customers used and plan to use drones and automation technology.

The use of drones in the farming sector forms part of the wider adoption o agricultural technology (AgriTech). This concerns the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency, and profitability. This area is wide ranging; for example, in January 2021 it was announced that an Israeli agrotech startup called Pigmentum had received $1 million in funding in order to enhance natural aroma and flavor in plants.

In terms of drone use for agriculture, the recent survey finds that 48 percent of agriculture respondents indicate that automation is important to their business, and 45 percent say they plan to grow their drone operation spend in 2021. Despite the growth, it remains that agriculture drone usage is more seasonally dependent than other industries, with uses spanning across monitoring soil and crop progress to helping with harvests.

In relation to seasonality, when farms that actively use unmanned aerial vehicles were polled, 46 percent said they use drones a few times a month in their operations, whereas 33 percent use drones weekly and just 10 percent using drone daily.

In terms of the main applications for agriculture drones, the key benefits of using drones are improved operations, increased productivity, and reduced costs. This is applied to applications like precision farming, livestock monitoring, smart greenhouse, precision fish farming, horticulture, and forestry.