New Innovation in Agriculture: Drones


India’s economy is majorly dependent on agricultural produce and that also constitutes a major portion of export. Also, for the majority of rural households, agriculture is the chief source of income. For the farmers, crop failures due to adverse weather conditions and uncontrolled pest issues have been the key contributors to the losses.

Fortunately, there is hope that crop failure could be detected in advance and necessary steps could be taken? Innovative solutions like agricultural drones to tackle the problems ailing the agricultural sector in India. Although the rural sector is still far behind in technological advancement but now agricultural drone empowers the farmer to adapt to specific environments and make mindful choices accordingly. 

What Are Drones?

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are small aerial platforms weighing up to 20 kg. Due to their size, they cannot be boarded by a human body. It can be operated in two ways; directly, in which a human has complete control of the vehicle by wireless remote; and autonomously, in which the vehicle is able to control itself and follow a route based on the data from GPS or other sensors.

They are small and light aerial vehicles which may fly at extremely high altitudes and carry various navigation systems or recording devices such as cameras, infrared cameras, and other sensors. Due to their ability to deploy various sensors and capture high-resolution and low-cost images of crop conditions, drones are very useful in farming.

Initially used for chemical spraying, today drones are a great tool for capturing aerial imagery with platform-mounted cameras and sensors. Images can range from simple visible-light photographs to multi-spectral imagery that can be used to assess different aspects of plant health, weeds, and assets. In the era of precision farming, drones are acting as an essential technology that will take farming to a completely new level.

In a step aimed at making drones more available to farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare has also announced revised guidelines for the "Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization" (SMAM) scheme. The funding guidelines will make this technology affordable by assisting in purchase, hiring and demonstration of agriculture drones. The financial aids and grants shall be applicable till 31st march 2023. SMAM scheme was launched in 2014-2015 with the objectives of expanding farm mechanizations access to small and marginal farmers and to the regions and difficult areas where farm power availability is low.

Advantages of Using Drone in Agriculture

  1. Soil and field analysis- Agricultural drones can be used for soil and field analysis to help in field planning. They can be used to mount sensors that measure soil moisture content, topographical conditions, soil conditions, soil erosion, soil nutrients, and soil fertility.

  2. Crop monitoring- Crop surveillance refers to the monitoring of a crop from seeding to harvesting. This includes applying fertilizers at the appropriate times, tracking the impact of weather conditions, and inspecting for insect infestation. When dealing with seasonal crops, crop surveillance is the only way to secure a timely harvest. Crop failure could come from any faults made at this time. Crop surveillance helps in understanding and planning for the next farming season.

  3. Plantation- Drones can assist with the planting of trees and crops, which was formerly done by farmers. This technology will not only save labor but also help in saving fuels.

  4. Livestock management- Drones can be used to monitor and manage large flocks of animals since their sensors contain high-resolution infrared cameras that can detect sick animals and take appropriate action. As a result, impact of drones on precision dairy farming is soon becoming the new normal.

  5. Crop spraying- Agri-drones can spray chemicals because they have reservoirs that can be filled with fertilizers and insecticides for spraying on crops in a fraction of the time, as compared to traditional methods. Thus, drone technology has the potential to create a new era for precision agriculture.

  6. Check crop health- Farming is a large-scale operation that takes happen across thousands of acres. Constant surveys are required to keep track of the soil's health and the crop that has been planted. Manually, this could take days, and even then, human mistake is possible. Drones can complete the same task in only a few hours. Drones can acquire information about the health of the soil and the crop using infrared mapping.

  1. Avoid overuse of chemicals- Drones have the potential to reduce the usage of herbicides, insecticides, and other chemicals in particular. These compounds do certainly aid in crop protection. However, over usage of these can be harmful. Drones can detect even the tiniest indicators of pest attacks and provide precise information about the severity and range of the attack. This can assist farmers in calculating the amount of chemicals needed to protect their crops rather than harming them.

  2. Prepare for weather glitches- Weather conditions can be a farmer's best friend and worst opponent at the same time. Since these cannot be accurately predicted, it becomes extremely difficult to prepare for any shift in patterns. Drones can be used to detect upcoming weather conditions. Storm drones are already being utilized to improve forecasting accuracy. Farmers can utilize this information to better prepare themselves. Advance notice of storms or lack of rain can be used to plan the crop to be planted that would be best suited to the season, and how to take care of planted crops at a later stage

  3. Geofencing- Drones equipped with infrared cameras can easily detect animals or humans. As a result, drones can protect the crops from animal damage, especially at night.

  4. Irrigation Monitoring-Drones with hyper spectral, thermal, or multispectral sensors detect areas that are too dry or require the farmer's attention. Drone survey helps improve water efficiency and disclose potential pooling/leaks in irrigation by providing Irrigation monitoring.

How does drone technology work?

Drones usually comprise a navigation system, GPS, several sensors, high-resolution cameras, programmable controllers and tools for autonomous drones. The majority of farmers now use satellite imagery as an introductory guide for farm management. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) combined with modern technology can obtain more exact data for precision agriculture than satellites. They then process the data captured into Agri-tech software to generate useful knowledge.

The following stages are involved in capturing data from an agriculture drone

a) Analyzing the area: This defines the territory being tested. Therefore, the first step includes establishing a periphery, analysis of the area, and then finally, uploading the technical GPS data into the drone's navigation system.

b) Using Autonomous Drones: Since unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are independent, they enter flight patterns into their already recognized system to gather required data.

c) Uploading the data: All the required data is collected through sensors such as the multispectral sensor/RGB sensor. After that, it's processed through a number of software programs for further analysis and interpretation.

d) Output: After collecting the data, they format it in structure that farmers can easily understand it with no hassle and bringing them a step closer to precision farming. 3D mapping, often known as photogrammetry, is a common way for displaying large amounts of data.

Benefits of Agri-drones

The farmer can improve production capabilities through comprehensive irrigation planning, adequate monitoring of crop health, increased knowledge about soil health, and adaptation to environmental changes. Its usage results in regular updates to farmers about their crops and helps develop strengthened farming techniques. They can also adapt to weather conditions and allocate resources without any wastage. In comparison to traditional spraying methods, agricultural drones use ultra-low volume (ULV) spraying technology, thus saving more water. The drones are operated by trained drone pilots. So, there are no chances of their misuse. Also, farmers use the data captured through drones to claim crop insurance in case of any damages. They even calculate risks/losses associated with the land while being insured.

Limitations of Agri drones

Using new technology is a welcoming change but using it daily requires the right skill set and adequate knowledge. An average farmer may struggle to understand drone functions. Either he must acquire the knowledge or remain dependent on an experienced person. Often, online coverage is unavailable in rural areas. Under such circumstances, a farmer needs to invest in internet connectivity, which can turn into a recurring expense. As we observe drones are heavily dependent on good weather conditions. Under rainy or windy weather conditions, it is not advisable to fly drones.


Agricultural drone technology, as previously stated, is undoubtedly the future of the Indian agrarian sector. It has the potential to change traditional farming processes in numerous other ways. Even though this technology is more difficult to grasp at first, once taught, it will produce results in no time.

Farmers must be aware of the full procedure. Determining goals, achieving balance in the drone and software used, and understanding the concepts of using such technology will all be difficult. For the capture of trustworthy data, farmers will definitely require extensive training or cooperation with third-party professionals in the drone industry. Drones have transformed the way data is collected and they will get better in the coming years.


Rajni Yadav, Sandip Kumar Gautam, Manu Rani, Vikas Kumar

Department of Soil Science, Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar, Haryana


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