Drones have their place in the Farming and Agriculture Industry
Agriculture tech is on the rise with farmers looking for new innovative ways to improve efficiency on the farm. As the agro industry becomes more competitive with higher operational costs, many farm owners will appreciate DJI’s advanced crop bot. Not only crop spraying, drones have other prominent uses in agriculture as well.
Farmers can mount sophisticated multispectral imaging devices to capture specific wavebands needed to analyze plant health. Another common drone application in the agro industry is volume metrics and land survey. Buy using specific automation software a camera drone can fly pre-determined routs while acquiring images thus generating a matrix of images. These images are then further processed in post software to generate 3d maps, volume and surface area measurements. Furthermore simply having an eye in the sky can help find area’s of concern such as irrigation issues.
Precision Agriculture is derived from modern technologies and refers to the process in which farmers can realize maximum yields by optimizing efficiency and productivity. Like anything there are also challenges associated with farming. One of the major set backs is dealing with pests, parasites and disease. Although many channels now consider chemicals controversial, farmers rely on them as insurance against crop devastation. On the flip side this agro drone can also be used to feed crops when liquid fertilizer is dispensed.
Agras MG-1 the affordable way to spray
Enter the DJI Agras MG-1 crop spraying drone. DJI clearly believes there is a demand for automation on the farm which I am sure famers will happily embrace. DJI’s agro Drone named Agras MG-1 looks like a large camera drone but is much more. DJI’s engineers purpose built this platform to effortlessly spray a 4,000 – 6,000 square meter area in around 10min. For farmers looking to spray large farms of hundreds acres or more they may be waiting a little longer for battery technology to improve. But for small farms this machine could be a worthwhile investment.
Like most DJI products the MG-1 comes ready to work with minimal training and or assembly. Grids are quickly set up for autonomous crop dusting missions. Of course you know this thing will be getting dirty and wet on the farm, what doesn’t. DJI has thought of this as it’s corrosion, dust, and water resistant. Even with an abundant amount of land, equipment storage can quickly become an issue. Although not so much with the MG-1 as it and can be folded for safe, easy transport and storage.
“The launch of DJI’s agricultural drone displays our unmatched knowledge base and development skills,” said DJI CEO and founder Frank Wang. “With this new product, we’ve shown that DJI can not only offer the ultimate aerial experience for the mass consumer, but also improve the efficiency of production and benefit so many others in all walks of life.”
What can the MG-1 do and is it a viable solution?
Alright lets get down to the specs. The Agras has powerful yet efficient eight rotor propulsion system can carry more than 10kg of chemical solution and cover 7-10 acres per hour. DJI claims their new system is over 40 times more-efficient than manual spraying(by that they are implying by foot). Flying up to eight meters per second, the crop drone proportions spray intensity to flying speed, ensuring effective coverage.
Like mapping the drone needs to know how high and fast it’s moving to intelligently and evenly disperse product for maximum efficiency. The MG-1’s on board computer will automatically adjust flow according to current flight behaviours and environmental conditions. Not all products are created equal and exactly why DJI has created different atomizing spray nozzles to accommodate. The nozzles are chemical resistant and DJI advertises they are good for thousands of hours of operation before servicing or replacement.
DJI has won over many droners and become industry leaders as their flight controllers are some of the most advanced, stable and user friendly while offering great value. The Agras series are designed with ease of use in mind while precisely responding to pilots inputs. Users can select from 3 flight modes, smart mode, manual plus and full manual mode. Flight modes can be selected to give maximum, specific control for any given mission. Most operators will be piloting under smart mode. With the tap of a few buttons the pilot can program a flight route without having to dig into mapping software further reducing the learning curve.
In a perfect world with optimal operating conditions and level terrain one could just set some waypoints and let the drone get to work. However this is not realistic and terrain can change in an instant with flats and rolling hills. Agras will accommodate uneven terrain by using it’s integrated microwave radar. Combined with intelligent flight system this work horse can perform it’s missions with centimetre accuracy.
Farmers are used to operating heavy equipment which is designed to take the daily abuse of commercial use. Furthermore, farm machinery is susceptible to moisture, dirt, dust and chemicals. To combat these issues the designers engineered an advanced air cooling circulatory system. When air enters the inlet is passes a filtration system. This clean filtered air then passes through the crafts arms to the motors cooling and dispersing the hot air. This cooling and filtration system can drastically lengthen the life span of these components by 3x.
Like previously mentioned this craft has a sealed central body offering weather resistance to all the sensitive electronics. Although I would not recommend flying this craft in poor weather conditions, DJI suggests it is designed to resist water.
Whats the difference between the MG-1 and MG-1s?
The MG-1 is the original DJI crop dusting machine. Since DJI has released a newer model the MG-1s. The new model has some very notable updates. Here is whats new in the MG-1s
- Includes A3 Flight Controller
- Improved Radar Sensing with 3 sensors (front, back, bottom)
- New crop spraying system for increased accuracy
- Nozzles now have flow sensors for added data and efficiency
- New planning system helps calculate product dispersement
- 1080P LCD display replaces the previous LED info panel
- New agricultural management software
- Increased water resistance with sealing films added to esc
- New optional battery charging hub charges 12 batteries in sequence
If you have a small farm or hobby farm or you are currently applying you products manually this system may just be a no brainer, given it’s in the budget of course. You can expect to pay 10K – 15K in the current market for a MG-1 or MG1-s. Another primary consideration before purchasing this drone is to understand you will only get about 4-5000 square meters of coverage per charge. I would suggest picking up additional batteries and chargers to reduce downtime.
So what does the feature hold for drones in the agriculture industry?
Reputable sources predict the drone market to exceed 12 billion by 2020. As for the agricultural drone sector? Analysts predict the market worth in excess of 1 billion by 2025 and volumes of units shipping reaching 6 figures. With inflation and increased labour rates, demands will increase as business owners and farmers turn to advancements in technology for increased efficiency and lower overhead. Additionally, as more exposure and general awareness hits the masses it will be short time till we see these flying robots as a standard piece of farm equipment.