Drone technology is having a huge impact on the agricultural industry, according to a recent report, the global drone market will grow from $2.8 billion in 2020 to 15.2 billion in 2027. Drone use in agriculture is worth an estimated $30 billion and is second only to construction in terms of market value. Drones are primarily used in two areas of agriculture, mapping and spraying. When it comes to choosing the best drones for agriculture, there are a few factors that will determine which drone is best suitable for an agricultural project.
For example, for agricultural field mapping, you have the option of either a fixed-wing drone or a multi-copter drone.
Fixed-wing drones are more expensive and more suitable for mapping large areas of land. There are also not as many options for fixed-wing drones compared to the range of options available for multi-copter drones.
Multi-copter drones are great for mapping smaller areas of land, they also offer greater manoeuvrability and have many other uses other than just mapping.
For example, with multi-copter drones, users can fly over a field at a low altitude, get a quick visual of the crops, and see if there are any visible pest or disease problems, which can then be treated promptly.
The other area in which drone technology is slowly gaining ground is in agricultural drone spraying.
Crop spraying is also carried out by multi-copters thanks to their structure and design, they make agricultural crop spraying much easier.
What Are The Benefits Of Using Drones In Agriculture?
There are many benefits of utilising drone technology in agriculture, one of the biggest is that they provide an easier and inexpensive method to gather crop data than traditional methods.
For example, farmers will no longer have to walk around the field to scout crops or use other time-consuming and inefficient methods.
With the use of drones, farmers can easily map a field and gather accurate crop data through the use of different types of sensors.
That is another benefit of using drones, many commercial-grade drones are compatible with multiple types of cameras that come with different sensors.
Depending on the required data type, drones can be attached with a high-resolution RGB camera or a multi-spectral camera, and many are compatible with LiDAR sensors.
Gathering accurate data in all stages of growing crops is very important as it will help farmers quickly detect any issues with regard to the health of plants and soil and allow them to take action and mitigate the problem.
Not only is it easier to gather data with the use of drones, but because they are so easily deployable, farmers will be able to do it on a more regular basis.
Not only is this a more efficient way to gather crop data, but it will also lead to better crop management, resulting in healthier crops, higher yield and better return on investment.
Another benefit of using drone technology for agriculture is that they are usually a much cheaper option than using a manned aircraft to gather mapping data or crop spraying.
Drones also offer a much safer option for crop spraying, especially for farmers who use backpacks to spray crops.
Using drones for crop spraying is proving to be more practical, especially for areas of land that are hard to reach by foot or tractors. In fact, according to this article, sugar cane farmers in El Salvador are spraying their crops for the first time, thanks to drones.
Drones are also playing a huge role in sustainable agricultural practices, using drones is helping farmers use their resources more efficiently and reducing the use of harmful chemicals.
Best Drone Mapping Software
Of course, using drones to collect image data is just one part of the solution, users will also need robust software to turn the drone image data into actionable digital assets that are easy to analyse and extract valuable data from.
There are many drone mapping applications that are suitable for agricultural data analysis, the most popular ones are the following:
- Drone Deploy
- DJI Terra
- Precision Hawk
- Maps Made Easy
Depending on the sensor type and the data required, these applications can be used to develop different types of maps and 3D models and extract data through different agricultural indices.
These drone mapping applications will help farmers identify issues regarding pests, irrigation, disease, plant stress level, soil nitrate level etc. and allow them to precisely target the affected areas through variable rate application.
Best Drones For Agriculture – Mapping
1. DJI Mavic 3M
The DJI Mavic 3M is a drone developed for agricultural use, equipped with a dual camera system that includes a high-resolution RGB camera and a multispectral camera with four 5MP sensors. Its advanced camera system allows it to capture valuable data for agricultural purposes, such as crop health monitoring, identifying plant species, and mapping vegetation. The drone features an RTK module for precise mapping and a sunlight sensor to ensure consistent data acquisition. It has 43 minutes of flight time and omnidirectional obstacle avoidance technology, making it an indispensable tool for precision agriculture. With its impressive features, the DJI Mavic 3M is a valuable tool for agricultural professionals.
2. DJI Phantom 4 RTK
The DJI Phantom 4 RTK is one of the most popular commercial-grade drones on the market. It’s an exceptional drone that comes with a 20MP 1-inch sensor that can capture highly detailed aerial images with survey-grade accuracy thanks to its RTK GNSS module. It uses TimeSync technology to align the flight controller, RTK module and camera to make sure that images are embedded with accurate geospatial data. The drone has a flight time of around 30 minutes and uses DJI’s OcuSync transmission technology, allowing users to stream live video from 7km. The drone comes with its own flight planning app that can also collect data for photogrammetry applications.
3. DJI M30T
The DJI M30T drone is a lightweight and compact drone that is designed for industrial applications, such as aerial surveying, search and rescue, and drone mapping. It has a multisensor payload that includes a high-resolution RGB camera, a thermal imaging camera, a night vision FPV camera, and a laser range finder. This allows the drone to capture high-quality images and data for various applications.
The drone is designed to be rugged and durable, with an IP55 rating that allows it to be operated in heavy rain and winds up to 33mph. It also has a flight time of up to 41 minutes, enabling it to cover a large area in a single flight. The drone has a transmission range of 15km, which allows it to be flown over long distances and in remote locations.
The DJI M30T drone has various safety features, including an ADS-B receiver, an omnidirectional obstacle avoidance system, and multiple redundancy systems. The ADS-B receiver allows the drone to detect other aircraft in the vicinity, while the obstacle avoidance system helps to prevent collisions with objects in the drone’s path. The multiple redundancy systems ensure that the drone can continue to fly even if one or more components fail.
Overall, the DJI M30T is a highly versatile and capable drone designed to meet the needs of professional drone operators in various industries. Its advanced features and capabilities make it an ideal choice for aerial surveying, search and rescue, and drone mapping applications.
4. DJI Matrice 300 RTK
This is DJI’s most advanced commercial-grade drone, it has a robust all-weather design that allows it to be operated in the harshest of weather conditions. It also has the longest flight time of any DJI drone at 55 minutes and a maximum transmission range of 15km. This drone can carry up to 3 payloads. This includes the full-frame 45MP Zenmuse P1 camera and the Zenmuse L1 LiDAR sensor. The drone can also be fitted with third-party payloads that include multi-spectral cameras from SlantRange and Sentera. The drone comes with advanced safety features such as obstacle avoidance sensors, redundancy systems and autonomous flight modes. This is a waterproof drone with an IP45 rating and can be operated in extreme cold and hot climates.
5. DJI Phantom 4 Multispectral
This drone has been specifically engineered for agricultural and environmental monitoring purposes, it comes equipped with a 6-array camera that includes an RGB camera, Blue, Green, Red, Red Edge and NIR sensors. All sensors capture images in 2MP and are stabilised by a 3-axis gimbal as well as coming with an RTK module for centimetre-level accuracy. Multi-spectral cameras capture plant health data that is undetectable through standard RGB cameras and help in identifying diseases, irrigation issues and plant stress levels. For live video feeds, users can switch between normal RGB and NDVI and get a quick overall view of the crops. The drone comes with an RTK module as well as a spectral sunlight sensor that ensures consistent accuracy of the NDVI data.
6. Micro Drone mdMapper 1000DG
An all-weather drone that has been engineered for use in multiple industries, the mdMapper 1000DG comes equipped with the Sony RX1R 11 42MP full-frame camera with a nadir mount. This drone requires no ground control points for survey-grade accuracy as it uses direct georeferencing technology. It can map around 80 hectares in one flight and comes with an onboard powerful IMU that captures accurate orientation angles making it a powerful tool for corridor mapping.
7. Micro Drone mdLiDAR 1000HR
The mdLiDAR 1000HR comes with Velodyne’s highly-rated Puck LiDAR sensor, which has a 100-meter range and utilises Velodyne’s innovative technology that With Velodyne’s breakthroughs in LiDAR, you can measure distance and reflectivity in real-time, 360°, 3D measurements. It has 16 laser channels, a 360° field of view and measures 300 thousand points per second. The drone also comes with a Trimble-powered GNSS receiver that has a dual-calibrated IMU that provides centimetre-level accuracy and is great for corridor mapping.
8. Micro Drone mdLiDAR 1000UHR
The mdLiDAR 1000LR is an exceptional commercial drone that comes with a Trimble-powered GNSS receiver and dual-calibrated IMU. This component delivers centimetre-level accuracy for maps without the need for ground control points. It comes with the latest LiDAR sensor from Hesaitech, the X32-32, which has 32 laser channels, a 360° horizontal field of view and a 120m range. The drone also comes with an APS-C 26MP camera and is equipped with the Trimble APX-15 GNSS Inertial board for direct georeferencing. This is the latest drone from MD and is suitable for long-range mapping projects.
Fixed-Wing Drones For Mapping
1. Wingtra Gen 2 Drone
After 6 years of development and over 100,000 flights, Wingtra finally released their next-generation UAV, the Wingtra Gen 2 drone. This hybrid drone comes with the robustness and durability of a fixed-wing drone and the vertical landing and take-off capability of a multi-copter drone. The drone comes with a Sony oblique a1600 camera and is also compatible with several other cameras, including the MicaSense Altum and MicaSense RedEdge-MX multispectral cameras. It comes with a built-in PPK GNSS receiver for sub-centimetre level accuracy for GSD, which results in better, more accurate map reconstruction. This is a robust drone with an IP54 rating and multiple redundancy systems for safer operations. It has one of the longest flight times for a commercial-grade drone and can be controlled from a distance of 10km.
2. eBee Ag
One of the few drones engineered specifically for agricultural purposes, the eBee Ag is a lightweight fixed-wing drone equipped with the Parrot Sequoia+ multispectral camera and the SenseFly S.O.D RGB 20MP camera. The drone has a maximum flight time of 55 minutes and can map 200 ha in that time frame. It’s an all-weather drone that can resist strong winds and is the perfect solution for gathering highly accurate crop data.
3. eBee X
This is the flagship drone from SenseFly, it’s built for all types of industrial applications, including precision agriculture. The drone comes with a maximum flight time of 90 minutes, which is the best on this list and is a great option for large-scale mapping projects. The drone is lightweight but holds up well in harsh weather conditions and can accurately map huge areas of land thanks to its RTK/PPK GNSS receiver. It’s compatible with a range of cameras, including the 24MP SenseFly Aeria X RGB camera and the MicaSense RedEdge-MX multispectral camera.
4. Atmos Marlyn
A VTOL drone that has been engineered for multiple industrial applications, the Atmos Marlyn looks like an aircraft from a science fiction movie. It has a unique design and a carbon fibre frame protected by a 3-layer EPP foam. It has great durability and can be flown in the harshest of weather conditions. Its hybrid design gives it the power of a fixed-wing drone and the flexibility of a multi-copter, provides a flight time of 50 minutes and can map around 370 acres of land within that time. The drone is compatible with 3 different camera, which includes the 42MP Sony RX1 R11 and the MicaSense RedEdge-MX and comes equipped with a PPK GNSS receiver. It’s a fantastic VTOL drone and a great solution for large-scale agricultural mapping and data collection projects.
Best Drones For Agriculture – Crop Spraying
1. DJI Agras T40
The DJI Agras T40 is an agricultural drone that is designed to provide efficient crop spraying and spreading capabilities. It has a high payload capacity, with a 40-litre spraying capacity and a 70-litre spreading capacity, allowing it to cover a large area in a single flight. It has dual atomized nozzles that provide more efficient spraying action, which helps to reduce over-fertilization and optimize pesticide use.
With its advanced flight control system, the Agras T40 can cover up to 21.3 hectares in one hour, making it a highly efficient and effective tool for farmers and agricultural workers. It also has a 12MP FPV camera and an RTK GPS module that can be used for accurate mapping missions.
The drone has an advanced obstacle avoidance system that allows it to fly safely and autonomously, even in challenging environments. It is also IPX6K rated, which means it is resistant to high-pressure water jets, making it suitable for use in harsh weather conditions.
The Agras T40 has a transmission range of up to 7km, which allows it to cover large areas and provide farmers with a comprehensive view of their crops.
The DJI Agras T40 is an agricultural drone that is designed to provide efficient crop spraying and spreading capabilities. It has a high payload capacity, with a 40-litre spraying capacity and a 70-litre spreading capacity, allowing it to cover a large area in a single flight. It has dual atomised nozzles that provide more efficient spraying action, which helps to reduce over-fertilization and optimize pesticide use.
2. DJI Agras T30
The DJI Agras T30 crop spraying drone comes with a 30-litre tank and can also be attached with a 40-litre spreading tank. Its unique spraying system is especially effective for treating fruit-bearing trees, and with its 16-nozzle layout, and improved plunger pump, the T30 has great spraying penetration and reduces drift. It can spray 8L per minute, has a spray range of 9 meters and can cover 40 acres of land in one hour. The spraying system has an IP67 rating, so it is not affected by rain or dust and can be flown in the toughest of weather conditions. The 40-litre spreading tank can be used to spread mulch, fertiliser and seeds and has a maximum capacity of 35kg. The drone has a spherical radar system that perceives its environment and can make adjustments in its flight to avoid obstacles. It has a front and back FPV camera that will allow pilots to monitor spray operations and comes with a searchlight that will allow for improved visuals for nighttime operations.
3. DJI Agras T10
The Agras T10 comes with the same features as the T30, but with reduced capability, it has a smaller 8-litre tank, and the spray system has 4 nozzles that can spray 2.4 litres per minute and has a spray width of 5 meters. It can also be fitted with a spreader that has a maximum capacity of 8kg and a spreading width of 7 meters. Like the T30, it has a spherical radar system for obstacle avoidance and dual FPV cameras for monitoring operations. This is the lightest and smallest crop-spraying drone and is perfect for spraying small areas of land.
4. DJI Agras T20
The Agras T20 comes with a 20-litre spraying tank, and it can also be fitted with the DJI spreader 2.0 tank. The T20 is a powerful spraying drone that has 8 nozzles that can spray 6 litres per minute and has a maximum spray width of 7 meters. The drone can spray 30 acres in one hour and uses a digital omnidirectional radar system for obstacle avoidance. It uses GPS correctional technology to precisely fly along a pre-programmed route and spray only on plants that need to be treated, thus increasing efficiency and reducing waste.
5. DJI Agras T16
The T16 is similar to the T20, it has a smaller 16-litre tank and comes with an 8-nozzle spray system that has a spray width of 6.5 meters and a maximum spray rate of 4.8 litres per minute. It uses DBF radar for obstacle avoidance and can spray 24 acres in one hour.
6. XAG XPlanet Spray & Spreading Drone
The XPlanet crop spraying drone from XAG comes with a 20-litre tank and uses its proprietary spray mechanism that atomises droplets. Its propellers produce a powerful downward draft to reduce drift and increase chemical coverage on the crops. Using peristaltic pumps, the spraying system has a flow rate of 7.2 litres and a maximum spraying width of 7 meters and can cover 18 hectares of land in an hour. The drone can be mounted with XAG’s JetSeed™ Granule Spreading System, which will allow farmers to spread different types of seeds and fertilisers. It uses RTK GNSS technology for precision flying and uses an advanced 4D radar imaging system to sense its environment and obstacle avoidance.
7. XAG P30 Plant Protection
A crop-spraying drone that uses RTK technology to precisely navigate its route and only spray in the designated area. The drone has been engineered to operate in the harshest of weather conditions and has an IP65 rating, making it dust and waterproof. The P30 has a tank that can carry 16 litres of liquid and can cover around 14 hectares of land in one hour. The spray system uses XAG’s iRASS intelligent centrifugation to atomise droplets for a more even and effective spraying action.
8. XAG P20 Plant Protection
The XAG P20 crop spraying drones comes with a spraying system that atomises chemicals for better coverage and efficiency. The drone has a spray width of 4 meters and pumps out chemicals at a rate of 1.2 litres per minute. The drone can spray around 4 hectares in an hour and uses an advanced radar system that can accurately trace any variation in the landscape and make sure the drones fly at a steady altitude.
Am interested in crop spraying drones,where do I buy one ?
Do you know companies that could provide services to take radar pictures with drones? I am looking on the internet, but I could not find anyone with drones and cameras with Radar. I want to evaluate the possibility of estimating the water content of the soil profile, using Radar images.
Sorry, I could not find any company that provides the service you are looking for, would you be willing to look at an alternative to RADAR? there are drones that come equipped with LiDAR sensors, which can capture the type of data you are looking for. There are companies in the USA and Europe that provide drone surveys with LiDAR sensors.
All the best
Hi, I’m looking to include Drones in my Secondary Geography Curriculum. What kind of Camera/Filter etc would I need to survey an agricultural field?
I think this might be a do-able project for my students.
I was also wondering about surveying river beds but think this might involve very expensive LIDAR equipment.
What are your thoughts?
The best drones for agricultural use are ones that either come with a multispectral camera or can be fitted with one, however, it really depends on what kind of data you are looking to capture. A drone like the Phantom 4 Pro which comes with a 20MP RGB camera can provide you with high-quality maps, or if you want even more data, like data for crop and soil health, a drone with a multispectral camera like the DJI Phantom 4 Multispectral will be more suitable.
The same applies to surveying river beds, a drone with a high-quality RGB camera will usually do, but a drone with a multispectral camera will provide even more data. As you are an educator, you may be eligible for DJI’s education discount, if you do decide to purchase a DJI drone, it will be best to contact them and let them know how you will be using their drones and ask them if you are eligible for an education discount.
All the best