According to PwC, the agriculture drone market is expected to be worth more than $32.4 billion, second to infrastructure. Moreover, Markets and Markets expect the agricultural drone market to grow at a CAGR of 30% through 2022.
Drone technology is one of the most efficient multipurpose innovations of the century. As for its industry-specific usage, agriculture reaps great benefits in this field.
However, investing in hardware is only the first step. Agritech businesses also need to make sure their devices are powered by the software that meets their needs and serves their goals. They may either buy a ready-made solution, develop custom agriculture drone software or combine both approaches. Consequently, the demand for agriculture software development is growing and we can see a variety of interesting applications of drones in the industry.
For instance, agriculture drone software offers a variety of crop monitoring possibilities at a lower cost. Businesses can integrate it at every stage of the crop lifecycle – from soil analysis and seed planting to harvesting. No wonder agriculture business owners are starting to invest in drone software development to save costs and have a more detailed vision of their crop health.
So what are the top applications of drone software in agritech? And what advantages do they offer to farmers and business owners?
Key Areas for Agriculture Drone Software Development
Pre- and post-flight agriculture drone software is the key to effective drone usage and data management. It allows having full control over the drone and maximizing the efficiency of data capturing and further analysis.
The key types of drone-based agritech software offered by market leaders are:
Flight Management Software
Flight management software allows farmers to control the drone’s trajectory for safer flights and up-close field inspections. It usually supports different flight modes and includes various mission planning blocks, offering high accuracy levels.
For example, eMotion by senseFly is the drone flight management software that has the functionality for collecting and managing geospatial data. The solution features different mission planning blocks and flight modes, which can be used for numerous applications, such as automated mapping flights and up-close inspections.
Furthermore, eMotion’s 3D environment and Google Earth visualization features allow the user to accurately plan, monitor and control the drone’s trajectory. The user can simply choose an appropriate mission block (e.g., aerial mapping, corridor etc.), adjust key settings, highlight the region for mapping, and eMotion will auto-generate the drone’s flight plan.
Another example is eMotion Ag. The solution supports multi-field flights and field boundary imports. To create machine-readable application maps, eMotion Ag enables you to directly upload the drone’s multispectral images to cloud services. eMotion Ag includes a built-in Flight Data Manager, which automatically deals with geo-referencing and preparation of images required for post-processing.
Drone Mapping Software
Drone mapping software optimizes field management by allowing the user to quickly upload imagery to the cloud and process it into detailed maps and 3D models. These maps and 3D models help agriculture business owners to spot any changes regarding crop health and share this data with their colleagues.
For instance, Pix4d is one of the leaders in drone mapping and aerial imaging software solutions that work with all kinds of drones. Its Pix4dAg software converts multispectral images into accurate reflectance and index maps, such as NDVI and NDRE. These maps help farmers define changes in crop health such as water stress levels, nutrient deficiencies, pests, etc. The application uses RGB images to generate high-resolution orthomosaics, providing the user with geographical data from an aerial perspective.
PrecisionHawk is another company that develops a variety of agriculture drone software for precision farming. Its cloud-based Precision Mapper software automatically processes aerial data into 2D and 3D products. Additionally, the solution offers an on-demand library of tools for data analysis including orthomosaics, crop health analysis tools, volume measurement features, and others. It also has a desktop version allowing farmers to easily manage and share the data.
Image Processing Software
Image processing software allows farmers to process and analyze the images collected by drones while vastly reducing third-party software compatibility issues. This helps them to define key problem areas and take appropriate actions.
One of the interesting solutions in this area is Agisoft PhotoScan. This stand-alone software generates 3D spatial data and performs photogrammetric processing of digital images. Agisoft PhotoScan can be used for processing various types of images including aerial and close-range. The solution also features inbuilt tools for measuring distances, areas, and volumes. Moreover, for a more detailed metric analysis, Agisoft PhotoScan can be transferred to external tools thanks to a variety of export formats.
Another example of image processing software is AgVault 2.0 by Sentera. It allows farmers to use crop health imagery collected with the help of a drone. The solution quickly analyzes and assembles all drone-captured data into a functional field map enabling farmers to identify a problem area. AgVault features a desktop client and mobile app for iOS and Android, which are automatically synchronized with one another. Thus the farmers can quickly view plant-specific photos, make data-driven crop health decisions and address areas of concern in real-time.
Also, it’s worth mentioning Airware, a cloud-based analytics platform that helps to manage, process, analyze, and collaborate on data. It allows transforming the georeferenced imagery collected from the drone into a precise 3D copy. So farmers can leverage this platform to perform site surveys, calculate volumes, optimize field management, and share insights with coworkers. Moreover, they can request automatic reports or classify material types by site and date.
Business Value of Agriculture Drone Software
Precise Field and Soil Analysis
Agriculture drone software allows farmers to identify the field condition and take appropriate actions. The drone-driven software provides valuable data for soil and field analysis, which helps reduce irrigation water use and improve nitrogen-level management. For instance, drones can acquire precise 3D volumetric data, which may reveal hills or drainage points.
Furthermore, with the help of hyperspectral, multispectral, or thermal sensors, they can identify which parts of a field are dry or need improvements. Thus farmers can plan their planting pattern and distribute crops according to the specifics of the landscape based on the data from drones.
One of the key stop factors which lower or completely negate the crop monitoring process is vast field areas. Data on after-effects or season statistics is not enough for efficient crop monitoring. Moreover, unpredictable weather conditions urge farmers to take immediate actions without waiting for the season end. Agriculture drone software for crop monitoring provides flexibility and allows farmers to adjust their strategy during the season. Additionally, it enables farmers to reduce field maintenance costs and resources while focusing on the most critical areas.
Efficient Health Evaluation
Drone-enabled crop health analysis can gather the data from thermal, infrared, or multispectral sensors. This way the farmers can get the data on sunlight absorption and transpiration rate of their crops. Moreover, health information can be gathered from multispectral imaging cameras that track changes in plants and indicate their health.
A growing number of agriculture owners are using drones for the NDVI mapping method to know the health condition of their field. Drones can acquire a much more detailed map and measure areas within centimeters compared to the image resolution received from satellites.
Whereas agriculture drone software can allow farmers to map the drone behaviour and effectively manage the data collected from them. These solutions can be also used to spot bacterial or fungal infections on the trees and a lot more. Thus farmers can use drone-enabled software to get a more accurate vision of the field and track the plant’s condition during treatment (in case of a sickness).
Nowadays the agritech drone market offers a variety of solutions for flight management, image processing, drone mapping, and other tasks. Modern agriculture drone software can considerably increase farmer work efficiency and productivity while decreasing the workload and production costs. Indeed, technologies can help agriculture business owners become more productive, take proactive data-driven decisions, and maintain a competitive edge. So if you consider developing agriculture drone software and need an experienced IT partner for it, don’t hesitate to contact our experts.