The Best Drones To Optimize Your Agricultural Business
Drone use in the agricultural industry is now worth an estimated $30 billion.
We’re used to people flying drones for fun or taking footage of their trips, but drones have many practical applications for businesses. One of the most popular uses for quadcopters is in the agricultural industry, as they can help farmers with a wide variety of daily tasks in the fields.
And as strange as it may seem to some of you, some drones are explicitly built for agriculture. You could use standard drones like the DJI Mini 2, for example, but some quadcopters are made with specific agricultural tasks in mind, such as watering or spraying crops efficiently and effectively while saving time and money for farmers.
Because usually, farmers would fertilize or water their crops with expensive machines or even airplanes, which cost a lot of money and time. Instead, they can now buy a couple of these drones and let them do the job quicker, easier, and cheaper.
Agricultural drones are more expensive than average consumers’ drones, but because they’re used for work, these quadcopters easily pay for themselves over time. If you’re a farmer, you know that new technologies often make your daily tasks easier, and a drone explicitly built for agricultural purposes is your best bet for optimizing your crop.
What Should You Consider When Buying An “Agricultural” Drone?
You should look for specific features that may vary from commercial drone users. Let’s look at the key factors you should be looking for:
- Flight time
One of the most important things is the flight time, for obvious reasons. To water the crops or spray them with fertilizer, you need a drone that can do the job for a prolonged period of time. Time windows are critical in agriculture, and you don’t have time to waste recharging the drone every 20 minutes.
Most commercial drones have notoriously short batteries, so you should look for quadcopters with excellent battery life. On top of that, many drone companies offer extra batteries as an additional kit that doubles or triples battery life in most cases.
- Watering and spraying capabilities
One common use of drones in agriculture is making them spray or water crops.
Drones are not only a very efficient way to water/spray crops but also extremely cheap when compared to traditional methods. Also, drones can pinpoint your pesticides or fertilizers much better than a plane or big machine would. Drones made for crop spraying will generally be sturdier and have larger profiles, which means they’re also more expensive. Yet, you’ll save a lot of money in the long run.
An excellent high-quality camera is also pivotal for your crops. A camera that gives you a crisp and clear image of your fields will make you analyze and assess the conditions of your crops better. This way, you won’t have to manually go through all your fields and look at their condition, as you can simply fly the drone out while sitting comfortably on a chair.
A camera with at least 10MP would be good, but there are also much better options at higher price points.
- Fixed vs. multirotor
For agricultural purposes, you would generally choose fixed-wing or multi-rotor drones. Multi-rotor drones are the most common ones you see pilots use for personal use and the most commonly designed drones are multi-rotor. The benefits of multi-rotor quadcopters are that they can take off vertically, land vertically, and hover in one place, but they’re generally slower.
Fixed-winged drones are more similar to a plane in miniature as they tend to take off and land horizontally as an aircraft would. These machines can’t hover, but they’re extremely fast and can scan over your crops in no time, however, they’re also very expensive.
What Are The Benefits Of Using Drones In Agriculture?
There are multiple benefits to using drones for your crops. One of the key ones is that they provide an easier and more inexpensive method to gather crop data than traditional methods.
Usually, you would check them yourself manually, which takes a ton of time and energy. But drones make this a lot easier as you can comfortably check your crop’s condition while sitting comfortably on a chair.
Because these flying machines make the data-gathering process so much easier, you’ll be checking your fields more often because it’s that simple. This, in turn, will lead to better crop management, resulting in healthier crops over time, higher yield, and a better ROI or profit.
Drones are not just cheaper than traditional crop-spraying methods, but they’re also a lot safer for you and your employees.
Using quadcopters for crop spraying also makes more practical spraying fields that are hard to reach by foot or machines and play a huge role in sustainable agricultural practices because drones reduce the use of harmful chemicals with their efficiency.
On top of that, drones also help farmers plant seeds, surveillance, and thermal imaging.
Whatever your needs may be, there is probably a drone that is the perfect solution for your business. And in the following few lines, we’ll go over the best available drones on the market for agricultural purposes.
The Best Drones For Farmers
We’ll now go over the best drones overall in agriculture, but we have to make a distinction first. There are two main distinctions when it comes to farmers’ drones, those used for spraying and the ones used for mapping. We’ll go over both and look at other more “niche” drones for different uses.
DJI Agras MG-1 (Best Crop Spraying Drone)
The Agras is one of the best spraying drones available on the market. It is a large drone with great capabilities, but it’s also much more than just that.
It is engineered to easily spray around 4,000 and 6,000 square feet in about 10 minutes. If you have a huge farm, you can use this drone in cycles, but with a medium/small farm, you can easily spray your whole crop in one go.
The Agras is an extremely powerful drone as it can carry 10kg of chemical solution and cover up to 7-10 acres of land in less than an hour if you need to fertilize or pesticide your fields. The manufacturers of the MG-1 say that their drone is 40 times more efficient than manual spraying and the drone has a maximum speed of 29kmp.
One great feature is the automatic flow adjustment. Meaning that based on the weather conditions and current flight speed, the quadcopter automatically adjusts the flow of the chemical solution. Its atomizing spray nozzles are chemical resistant and can go for thousands of operations without breaking or needing replacement.
Agras MG-1 is also easy to maneuver, and you don’t need to be tech-savvy to be a good pilot. The drone is precise and responsive and has three flight modes: Smart, Manual, and full manual. We advise you to use the smart mode if you’re a newcomer.
The DJI machine is also corrosion, dust, and water resistant, making it one of the most duty-heavy quadcopters on the market.
The Agras seems like the perfect drone and for some aspects, it could be, but there’s one big issue: Its price. The DJI Agras goes for around $10,000 which is not a small price, but if you factor in how much it’ll help you optimize your crops, the Agras will pay for itself in no time.
- Excellent spraying capabilities
- Chemical, water, and dust resistant
- Extremely durable
- Easy to fly
- Powerful and fast
- Very expensive
- Doesn’t have a camera
Wingtra (Best Drone For Mapping)
Wingtra is a fixed-wing drone that allows you to fly at up to 57kph and has a battery that lasts up to 39 minutes with a full charge. You can monitor a vast area of your crop at that speed in one go.
Because this drone is explicitly made for mapping, it also has a great camera. The camera is a fantastic 42MP camera, meaning you can fly higher and record footage of wider sections of your crops at a time with crisp, clear images and videos. The maximum coverage of the Wingtra is about 272 acres at an altitude of 93m.
The drone can take off and land vertically like a multi-rotor drone, which is a massive plus for a fixed-wing drone like the Wingtra that usually require you to launch it horizontally like a plane.
If you need to map large areas of your crops, this drone is for you.
But if you’re looking for data collection speed over large areas, there’s no better solution than the Wingtra. However, the price can be an issue for some, as the drone is priced at around $20,000.
- Very fast
- High-quality camera
- Collects tons of data in a short time
- Limited to mapping
- Can’t map while hovering
- Very expensive
Parrot Anafi (Best Thermal Imaging Drone)
Anafi is one of the best drones if you need the thermal mapping feature for your crops.
With a weight of only 320g, this is a very light, compact, and portable quadcopter. You can set up the Anafi in a few seconds and fly over your crops in no time.
The camera is highly stable due to the fixe-axes gimbal, meaning that the camera will take exceptionally stable and clear footage of your fields. The Anafi also has about 25 minutes of battery life with a full charge, which is not amazing but still enough to fly over pretty large crops.
Anafi‘s thermal camera can detect temperatures between -10° and +400°, and due to the high-precision processing software it sports, you can see the temperature of each individual pixel. On top of that, the camera also has a digital zoom of up to 3X and can shoot videos in 4K resolution.
A great thing about the Anafi is that you can adjust the coloring of the thermal image on the go. You don’t have to take a picture and then analyze and process it on a computer. With the drone’s software, you can control the contrast of the thermal camera to make it easier to spot precisely what you’re looking for.
The Parrot Anafi is cheap when compared to the previous two drones, but it also can’t handle as much intensive work as those two can. The Anafi goes for around $420.
- 48MP and 4K camera
- Real-time thermal data adjusting
- Easy to use
- Battery life could be better
ProHawk UAV (Best Drone For Scaring Birds)
The times of scarecrows are long gone in the agricultural industry, but birds are always annoying when they try to eat your crops.
One of the uses of drones is to act as extremely expensive and technological scarecrows, and one of the best is the ProHawk UAV. This quadcopter is one of the few explicitly designed for bird control on the market.
The Prohawk has a patented sonic bird repeller, one of the most effective ways to repel birds from your crops. Drones are already pretty scary to a bird, but the Prohawk takes it to the next level with its sonic bird noise.
One of the best things about this drone is that it is entirely autonomous. You can focus on other important tasks while the Prohawk keeps your crop safe from unwanted birds. You can set up a specific route, and the drone will launch, patrol, and land once its job is finished for the day.
However, the Prohawk doesn’t come cheap, and the flying machine is priced at around $5,000.
- Fully autonomous
- One of the few “scarecrow” drones on the market
- Easy to setup
- Doesn’t do much other than scare birds
- No camera
DJI Mavic Mini (Best Affordable Drone)
This one is the only drone on the list that isn’t specifically designed for commercial purposes. In fact, it is mainly used by casual drone fliers to record fun footage. However, if you’re on a tight budget, the Mavic Mini can be an excellent option for you.
If your needs are not too intensive, the Mavic Mini is excellent, as you’d be wasting tons of money on commercial drones designed explicitly for hard on-site work.
The DJI Mavic Mini only weighs 249g (so you don’t even need to register it), and you get a reliable flying time of around 30 minutes per battery charge. The drone is easy to control and has an excellent 12MP camera to inspect and snap pictures of your fields.
Its camera can shoot videos of up to 2.7K/1080p with a sensor that captures images at 12MP across a wide range of modes.
As for speed, the Mavic is fast enough with its 48kph top speed, which is more than enough. Once you’ve set up the initial features, you’re ready to fly in a few seconds. In our opinion, you’ll need a bit of practice if you’ve never flown a drone in your life, but it is extremely easy to fly the Mavic Mini.
Despite its age, the Mavic Mini is still one of the best beginner-friendly drones you can buy, and you can easily repurpose it for agricultural use. The Mavic Mini is one of the best choices at a price point of $399 for not-intensive field users and beginners in the industry.
- Good battery life
- Easy to fly
- Good camera
- Not the best choice for intensive agricultural purposes
- You can find better camera drones
- Doesn’t perform well in strong winds or bad weather.
Things You Should Be Careful About When Flying Drones
When you buy a drone to optimize your crops, you need to know about commercial and consumer guidelines in your country.
Even drones for personal use need to be registered if they’re over 250g of weight, but you should always be careful of some specific regulations when flying your drone for commercial purposes. It is crucial that you know these regulations, otherwise, you’ll get in serious trouble.
Let’s go over a few essential issues you should look for when flying over your crops:
A ton of drones are confiscated every year for privacy issues. Drones are difficult to spot, especially when they’re flying very high, and some malicious people unknowingly take photos or videos of people. Needless to say, this is a severe privacy offense, and you could either get in trouble legally, or there have been cases of people shooting down drones with guns.
So if you don’t want to risk losing your drone for good, we recommend you ensure that your quadcopter’s footage doesn’t include images of your neighbor’s field, as this can be deemed as unauthorized footage. In the US specifically, the laws for privacy are strict, and many states are passing harsher laws each year regarding privacy issues and drones.
Before buying a new drone for your farm, you should always check that your farm’s connectivity and bandwidth are good. Many farmlands tend to have bad connectivity, making your flying experience with drones a nightmare.
Bad connectivity can cause poor responsiveness from the drone, as well as losing control of it in the middle of the flight. So if you don’t want to risk your drone’s safety, we advise you to check for your connectivity quality and ensure you get a drone that doesn’t need a live connection at all times to function.
FAA regulations & Operator certification
You should always have an FAA registration in place for your drone, as most drones for agricultural purposes are over 250g and must be registered. Other than that, you also need a remote pilot certificate to fly your quadcopter, as you’re using it for commercial purposes.
One more regulation you should look for is the EPA. This is fundamental because it gives you access to the data generated by drones flying over properties. Even if the drone only flies over your property, you still need the EPA regulation.
Because many crop owners still use airplanes to spray over their fields, you should be wary of interference with other aircraft flying over the area. Before flying your drone, you should file a flight plan with your local airport office. This way, you know it’s safe from other planes flying in the area.
Consult a lawyer
We highly recommend you consult a good lawyer in your area to be safe with regulations in your country or state. As you saw, there are many things to consider before even flying your quadcopter, and if one of the regulations isn’t in place, you could get in serious trouble legally.
Drones may seem like something out of a science fiction movie, but they are now part of our daily lives and will keep evolving over the years and be a vital part of most businesses in the future.
The agricultural industry benefits significantly from these flying machines, which help field owners optimize their crops in many ways. Drones provide excellent image quality and extremely efficient crop spraying compared to traditional methods. And on top of that, they’re also a lot cheaper and safer to use.
No matter your agricultural needs, there will be a drone to solve your issues and improve your crops’ efficiency.