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According to MIT Technology Review, one of the Top 10 breakthrough technologies last year was the agricultural drone. I focused on drones in one of my recent columns, Flexible Circuits and UAV Applications, which briefly mentioned agriculture as one of the uses for drones.
Agricultural drones are expected to have a significant impact on farming over the next few years. In the article mentioned above, the drone’s ease of use and affordability make this a tool that virtually every farmer could employ. One major complementary technology to the drone is the advances in imaging technology and analysis. Specifically, the agricultural drone gives farmers data analysis capability that they have not had before.
A drone can provide images of an entire farm in a relatively short period of time. Farmers can use captured images to determine areas where crops are degraded by pests, weeds, or fungus. Soil irrigation patterns can be analyzed quickly with drone images. The images are taken from about 120 feet, giving the farmer excellent image resolution and enough detail to spot these critical problems. Satellite images are simply not detailed enough to help, and many times areas are hidden by cloud cover.
Agricultural drones can also take infrared readings, giving farmers crop-stress indicators that are not evident to the naked eye. And, because of the low cost and ease of use, images can be taken on a weekly or even daily basis, giving the farmer valuable trend information that may not be evident from “snapshots.”
The overall impact of this technology should allow farmers to gain higher yields by using fewer resources, something that is becoming more important as the world population approaches 10 billion people.
Flexible circuit properties such as being light-weight, thin, and very configurable with outstanding reliability make flex circuits an ideal application for drones. Flexible circuits are also used in cameras and data collection technology, which is vital for the agricultural application.
1. MIT Technology Review, Agricultural Drones.
Dave Becker is vice president of sales and marketing at All Flex Flexible Circuits LLC.