Drones are showing increasing promise as tools that can benefit the agriculture industry.

A recent research project undertaken at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture indicates that drones could support farmers in their efforts to monitor the condition of crops. In the two-year study, the team found that both a basic digital camera, which captures ‘red, green, blue (RGB) images’ and a ‘multi-spectral camera’ offered key crop management information.

“Based on initial results, the aerial imagery provided by either RGB or multi-spectral sensors may be a sufficient tool to improve accuracy and efficiency of plant stand assessment,” said Shawn Butler, graduate student in the University of Tennessee College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.”The most impactful difference to the end user in deciding a method to use will be the cost between the two camera systems.”

And with the UN estimating farmers will need to produce 70% more food by 2050 to feed a growing global population, harnessing technology to drive efficiencies will be crucial.

There are a number of initiatives underway to do this. In Australia, a partnership between the country’s science agency – the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Ruralco, is using tech to ‘develop data-driven solutions for more efficient and sustainable farming’. As part of the tie-up, the pair are using drones ‘in long-range livestock detection’.