American Robotics Inc. has unveiled a fully autonomous drone system for specialized use in farming. The drone christened ScoutTM has the capability to charge and manage itself, as it carries out daily scouting missions.
United Nations estimates the world population to increase from 7 billion currently to ~10 billion by 2050 and cross 11 billion by 2100. Growing world population means an increased requirement to produce and feed this population. This potential increase in demand for food production comes in tandem with sustained reduction in arable land, increasing frequency of natural calamities and shrinking number of farmers globally.
Traditional farm scouting methods have proved to be inadequate. While manual scouting has become obsolete in many parts of the world, initial attempts at automated scouting have also proved to be relatively ineffective, given the cost of automation, operational complexities and overall inefficiency in detecting plant stress at an early enough stage. This has resulted in billions of dollars in lost yields.
The need of the day is to find a solution that is effective, cost efficient and produces visible improvement in land and operational productivity. Part of the solution lies in technology, more specifically automation. Automation on an industrial scale can help improve overall decision making in agriculture, be it optimizing input requirements, surveying farms, dealing with potential issues, maximizing output and efficiency in logistics.
What does Scout deliver?
Drone usage creates a whole new conundrum for the farming community. While the benefits of usage are clear, the typical cost of drone ownership prohibits its frequent usage. This prevents the users from developing an effective farm scouting system, as the data set (images) created is not frequent and in-depth enough to helpin decision making.
American Robotics claim that once the Scout system is installed there is no need for manual intervention. The system is fully capable of managing its operations – including planning, flying and self-charging. The system is designed for daily flights that can help in early detection of problem in the crops.
Given the autonomous features of Scout, it can continuously and seamlessly deliver plant health reports and updates to the farming base without any manual intervention. Scout offers a fully-automated drone system that can save the cost of daily manual operation, while also saving man work hours that can be dedicated to the remainder of the farming operation.
The Scout system consists of an autonomous drone and a weatherproof drone station. The drone is fitted with visual and multi-spectral cameras
The drone station, located in the field, provides the resting base for the drone and the charging station, while also housing the data processing unit. The daily collected data is also transferred via the station.
Built for use at an industry level, the Scout was tested across agri fields in the US. The makers claim this to be the first drone system that addresses the unique logistical and economic challenges faced by the agri-business community.
Full agricultural automation is the next big step in precision farming. Given the increasing food requirement of the world, the farming community needs all the technological help it can get. Scout is possibly the first step towards farm scouting automation at an industry level.