Hear from one of Europe’s top experts on the future of precision farming
Professor Simon Blackmore is Head of Engineering at Harper Adams University, Director of the National Centre for Precision Farming and Project Manager of FutureFarm, an EU funded enterprise that prepares for the farming challenges of tomorrow.
So, you can probably guess that he’s a pretty key figure when it comes to the future development of precision farming and agricultural robotics. At The Commercial UAV Show 2014, Simon was given 20 minutes to showcase how UAVs will be used by the farming industry in the future. He also explained what it will take for big companies to start investing properly in the right technology.
Planning routes for tractors and unmanned ground vehicles
At the moment, this is a task that involves many man hours and a lot of legwork. One UAV, on the other hand, can offer a real-time bird’s-eye view of a farm in a matter of minutes, allowing farmers to plot optimal routes quickly. Simon stated that UAVs of the future will be working with ground-based robots, not against them. He told us that the latter fulfil many functions that the former cannot, and that both work best when they’re used in unison.
Assisting agronomists with their daily work
The same goes for those who work on the farm – UAVs will be helping them rather than replacing them. Currently, agronomists are limited by the amount of ground they can cover. On farms of the future, UAVs will be providing agronomists with high-definition images of their fields, allowing them to dedicate more time to planning and make better informed decisions.
Applying nitrogen to crops
Simon Blackmore reminded us that nitrogen application is a consistent issue for farmers, year after year. Too much or too little can greatly effect a crop yield, and it is unwise to make the decision based on the results of the previous year, as annual conditions are too prone to change. Obviously UAVs can be used to spray fertiliser on crops but, far more importantly, they can also help with surveys and canopy development programmes. More advanced studies will give future farmers more knowledge as to how much nitrogen they should be applying to their crops.
Creating money maps
Blackmore stressed that this could be the most valuable application of all. UAVs, combined with the correct software and data, will be able to provide farmers with money maps. These are depictions of farms which pick out areas producing crops that generate the most income.
Applications like these should be the highest priority, as they will be crucial for acquiring large financial investments. The responsibility is in the hands of the designers – they need to be produce UAVs with better battery life, which can be combined with as much software and hardware as possible. Once more investors recognise how valuable these UAVs can be to precision farming, the sky is the limit for both the technology and the industry.
See all of the slides from Simon Blackmore’s presentation.
Find out what else you missed at The Commercial UAV Show, where 1600 people attended to learn who uses UAVs and how…