In the past, fertilisers were applied based on the average of crop samples taken from a field. This meant too much fertilizer application to one half of the crop, and too little to the other half. The emergence of GPS technologies and variable-rate machinery have allowed for the development of precision agriculture. Drones offer aerial imagery and data that give farmers access to fast, precise and cost-efficient advice on fertilisation and plant protection strategies for their fields.
Parrot and its subsidiary Sensefly have developed specialised agriculture solutions that cover aerial crop scouting, combined with data processing and analysis. One example is OCEALIA Group, a pioneering French farming cooperative that since 2015 uses senseFly drones and AIRINOV’s agronomy expertise to better assess and more accurately treat its crops. This helps farmers to concentrate efforts on specific areas and to take measures that are appropriate to solve the local issue, rather than bringing out fertilisers indiscriminately across their fields. The result? A 10% average increase in yields.
Drone-supported precision agriculture offers a number of tangible benefits. It improves the quality of the crop and boost yields. OCEALIA’s two drones have been used to help over 300 individual farmers, flying over 3,900 ha (9637 ac) of oilseed rape and 3300 ha (8,154 ac) of cereals, namely wheat, barley and triticale. This is important at times when it becomes more challenging to secure global food supply for ever larger populations. Importantly, it also reduces the waste of fertilizers and crop protection products. This is not only good for the environment by making agriculture more sustainable. It also reduces costs for farmers and optimises their return on inputs. Thanks to the cost-efficient nature of drone technologies, their benefits become available to a larger number of farmers and offer opportunities for “dronepreneurs” – small companies that offer agricultural drone services.
“The drone data is complementary to satellite imagery, which we still use for the general monitoring of our members’ crops throughout the year,” says Romain Coussy, who is in charge of decision support tools at OCEALIA. “However for providing quick tips on fertilisation, the drone is best adapted to this job. By using the drone for aerial crop scouting, combined with data processing and analysis from AIRINOV, plus our complementary controls, we can provide members with fertilisation advice between 48 hours and 4 days after a flight.”