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Agricultural drone market to grow to USD 4.8 billion

The agriculturaldrone market is expected to grow from USD 1.2 billion by 2019 to USD 4.8 billion by 2024.

Key factors driving the growth of the market for agricultural drones are pressure on global food supply due to growing world population and increase in venture funding for development of agriculture drones, according to a report by MarketsandMarkets.

“With advancements such as automation and GPS guidance that have already changed the farming industry, drones are now poised to modernise it once again,” states the report.

More accurate than satellite imagery

The researchers say that “drones allow real-time monitoring at a far more accurate and cost-effective level than previously used satellite imagery. Drones equipped with hyperspectral, multispectral, or thermal sensors are able to identify areas that require changes in irrigation. Once crops start growing, these sensors calculate their vegetation index, an indicator of health, by measuring the crop’s heat signature.”

High adoption of agricultural drones in North America

North America is expected to hold the largest share of the agriculture drones market during the forecast period. This growth is attributed to the exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the part 107 rule which is leading to high adoption of drones in agriculture. This is attracting more investments by venture capitalists in the agriculture drones market.

Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Operation

According to the researchers, the ability to fly drones Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) represents the next big opportunity. BVLOS operations can help farmers to collect data in a way that is safer and more cost-efficient than traditional methods. A common component of drone legislation is a safety restriction, limiting maximum operating distances to 500m. 

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The ability to fly drones Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) represents the next big opportunity. - Photo: Mark Pasveer
The ability to fly drones Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) represents the next big opportunity. - Photo: Mark Pasveer

BVLOS flying would be a game-changer for the drone industry, states the report. Sense-and-avoid systems, remote viewing using imaging devices and pre-programmed return-to-base measures, which are triggered if the drone loses contact, all mean drones can be safely operated in rural areas. Further testing of this technology is taking place with the aim of proving that BVLOS flying could be safe and become a reality in the near future.

Plant Pollination

Intensive modern farming methods and the unravelling consequences of global climate change could form a threat to bees, states the report: “A decline in bee numbers has prompted worldwide concern over the future of plant pollination which underpins horticultural and agricultural production.”

Also read: Possibilities for drones in agriculture seem endless – but are they?

Scientists at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and researchers in Japan have investigated the use of drone bees to carry out the task. The drone bee has proved it is capable of pollinating flowers without damaging the plant. The research teams are now progressing with an auto-piloted version that could be used by growers to carry out the work on its own.

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Researchers say that drones allow real-time monitoring at a far more accurate and cost-effective level than previously used satellite imagery. - Photo: Mark Pasveer
Researchers say that drones allow real-time monitoring at a far more accurate and cost-effective level than previously used satellite imagery. - Photo: Mark Pasveer

Drone Swarms

Currently, most spraying is carried out using single drone units to either patch, strip or spot spray. Rapidly developing technology within the drone may allow much larger areas to be sprayed in the future. Drones can fly in formation as they are already capable of communicating with each other to avoid collisions. This could allow a string or swarm of drones to apply pesticide across whole fields in the future.

While trials are under way, the main obstacle to success could lie in legislation with governments and military officials wary of terrorist threat presented by a swarm of UAVs, say the MarketsandMarkets researchers. 

Latest Developments of Agriculture Drones in Precision Farming

Sony (Japan) has launched a new crop management solution consisting of a newly developed drone-mounted multispectral sensing unit and Fast Field Analyser image analysis software.
Parrot (France) introduced Parrot Bluegrass Fields, an end-to-end agriculture drone solution, which provides farmers, agronomists, and researchers with the insights they need for boosting the quality of their crops and maximizing yields.
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Taranis (Israel), a precision agriculture intelligence platform, announced the closing of a USD 20 million Series B round of financing. With the potential to increase yields by 7.5%, Taranis uses deep-learning technology and agronomic understanding to offer unprecedented insights that create a more sustainable farming ecosystem.
DJI (China), PrecisionHawk (US), Trimble Inc. (US), Parrot Drones (France), 3DR (US), AeroVironment, Inc. (US), Yamaha Motor Corp. (Japan), DroneDeploy (US), AgEagle Aerial Systems, Inc. (US), and OPTiM Corp. (Japan) are some of the major players in agriculture drones market. Major innovators in this market are senseFLY (Switzerland), Pix4D (Switzerland), Agribotix (US), Sentera Inc. (US), ATMOS UAV (Netherlands), Delair (France), and Nileworks Inc. (Japan).

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