Calling it ‘Flying Farmer’, one of India’s biggest private universities has developed a drone for the agricultural sector.
The Punjab based Lovely Professional University (LPU) says that the drone developed by its students in the campus is a wireless sensor device that can be used for mapping and surveying of yields and biomass.
The drone can also calculate the amount of nutrients in the soil, which will allow farmers to increase production and reduce crop damage. Currently most Indian farmers don’t have the resources to do this. According to one of the students involved in the project, the university will soon approach the Indian ministry of agriculture in order to scale up the production of these drones. That way, these drones will be cheaper than its competitors and more affordable for more farmers.
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Currently, a drone used in the agricultural sector costs around USD 500 to USD 3,000, which is not feasible for farmers in India. The LPU drone will only cost USD 130 to USD 200. Once produced in larger numbers, the price will decrease. Over 50 students from Electronics, Mechanical, and Agricultural Engineering departments have worked on the project.
According to the student we spoke to, the drone will solve 2 major agricultural issues faced by farmers that includes pesticide treatment and weed detection. With rising labour costs and a shortage of labour, drone technology will replace human labour in applying pesticides.
The LPU drone could play a major role in aiming to make agriculture sustainable in India, since it will give more farmers the tools to implement sustainable farming pratices.
With a fully charged battery, the drone can fly for about 25 minutes. It can be pre-programmed to target specific areas and crops to deliver pesticides and avoid overusage of pesticides.
According to the student involved in the development program field trials with the Fyling Farmer drone have shown yield improvement of 15%-20% compared to traditional farming techniques.
Using computer vision algorithms and infrared sensors the drones are able to identify weeds and their exact position, and send this information to the farmer for timely action.
LPU Chancellor Ashok Mittal said that the university will not file for a patent, as it wants the technology to be open source. That way it can made available to as many farmers as possible, at the lowest costs. For further development LPU has already generated an internal research grant of USD 175,000.
LPU’s School of Agriculture is the first Indian Private University to be granted a Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) accreditation by the Indian Agriculture Ministry.
Drone regulations in India
Drone Regulations 1.0 announced for operations of remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) implemented through Digital Sky Platform from 1 December 2018, enables visual line-of-sight daytime-only and a maximum of 400 ft altitude operations. Air space has been partitioned into a Red Zone (flying not permitted), a Yellow Zone (controlled airspace), and a Green Zone (automatic permission). According to a study from Stratistics MRC, a US-based consultancy firm, the global drone market was worth USD 5.93 billion in 2015 and is estimated to grow to USD 22.15 billion by 2022, representing a growth rate of 20%.