Agriculture, surprisingly, is expected to provide some of the most fertile ground for the widespread use of UAVs [source: AeroVironment]. We’re not talking about the folksy family farm down the road. The types of farms and ranches that would most benefit from drones are massive operations covering hundreds or even thousands of acres.
Drones will become a critical component of what’s called precision agriculture. In the past, farmers would apply the same amount of fertilizer across an entire field, even if nutrient levels fluctuated greatly from one acre of soil to the next. The same was true for pesticides: Instead of hand-inspecting plants row by row, farmers would douse the entire crop with chemicals to prevent an outbreak.
In the near future, a drone equipped with infrared imaging cameras could detect chlorophyll levels in leaves, creating a detailed fertility map for an entire field. The next drone, armed with GPS coordinates and fertilizer, could spray the plants that need it most, cutting down on costs and potentially harmful chemical runoff.
And when harvest time approaches, farmers could inspect the ripeness of tomatoes and pumpkins in far-flung fields without hiring teams of workers to walk the rows. You could even envision a vacuum-equipped drone that could suck up samples of insects to determine the precision application of pesticides.