Drones have risen from relative obscurity just a few years ago to become one of the most innovative technologies available to multiple industries worldwide.

Agriculture is no exception. Figures from PwC revealed that the global market value for commercial drone use is more than US$127 billion (AU$160 billion).

Precise irrigation is crucial for Australian crops, particularly in drought-affected areas.

Of this, farming comprises US$32.4 billion – second only to infrastructure’s US$45.2 billion.

Let’s take a look at four ways farmers in Australia are using drones to boost productivity and protect their livelihoods.

1. Crop analysis

Satellites are one of the most accurate ways to analyse crops, but the cost, lack of availability and time delays for this type of monitoring often make it inconvenient for farmers.

According to Deakin University, many agricultural businesses have instead been turning to drones for their farming data over the last 18 months.

Drones can provide 3D maps for early soil analysis, as well as perform real-time health assessments to identify weeds or infestations that could ruin crops.

2. Planting and spraying

Drones aren’t just capable of collecting data; farmers can also use them for more hands-on tasks.

Unmanned devices can be used to shoot pods and seeds into fields, maximising uptake rates and reducing planting costs. For example, one UK-based company has developed drone technology that can plant up to 100,000 trees per day.

Crop spraying is made easier with drones, as they can accurately scan topographies and quickly distribute chemicals and other liquids across vast stretches of land.

3. Irrigation

Precise irrigation is crucial for Australian crops, particularly in drought-affected areas.

Drones equipped with multispectral and thermal-imaging sensors can detect dry farmland for more effective water distribution management. Farmers can also use sensors to better evaluate the nitrogen and nutrient levels in soil.

Any data or photographs collected during crop analysis and irrigation activities can provide evidence for farmers when they need to make insurance claims for failed harvests.

4. Cattle mustering

Queensland farmers have recently started using drones to help round up their cattle.

ABC News reported that traditional methods of mustering – horseback, motorbikes and small helicopters – are currently more cost effective and reliable, but this is likely to change as drone prices drop.

 

“I think it’s safe to say that we will always have that love affair and that quintessential expectation of stockmen riding horses,” AgForce Chief Executive Charles Burke told ABC.

“But it’s a natural progression now with a new technology like drones.”

Please contact MGA Insurance Brokers if you’d like to discuss your farm insurance needs.