How drones can help agriculture in 2023 and beyond

There is a variety of ways in which drones help farmers today. New usage models are created daily as we get more and more experienced using this technology. There is a lot to look forward to as we progress toward a potentially fully automated agricultural cycle.

It is also worth noting that drone usage is also helping shape agriculture. Without drones, many vertical farming projects and technologies would've been impossible. But before we go into the applications, here are three more things to remember.

  1. Your drone is only as good as its payload/attachment. If you plan to use the same drone with various attachments, make sure it has a gimbal, enabling you to change the payload.
  2. Software is as essential as the attachment. You want a reliable and easy-to-use fleet management tool to automate tasks and a comfortable data analysis platform.
  3. Match your mission plans with the drone’s characteristics. Battery capacity, flight time and take-off weight all play a significant role.

Here are some of the top 10 drone usage trends for 2023 in Agriculture:

1 Crop mapping and monitoring

Drones can create high-resolution maps of fields, which can help farmers identify areas that need more attention or resources. Various multispectral sensors gather data on crop health, allowing farmers to identify issues early and take corrective action. This core functionality bundles well with other options and is the foundation for modern, efficient farming.

Depending on the size of the operation, these tasks are typically handled by automated drones, flying over sectors and providing regular updates on the status.

2 Soil analysis

Drones can collect samples of soil for analysis, which can help farmers identify areas that need more nutrients or where pH levels are too high or low. Making informed decisions about fertilization and irrigation is crucial, especially for larger fields and plantations.

These drones can either be fully automated with specific equipment or have humans involved in actually attaching the samples to drones. This capability is critical when the field is far from the testing facility.

3 Plant counting and sizing

Drones may count plants and assess their size, which can help farmers optimize crop yields. Factors like planting density and yield estimates are often correlated, so finding the optimal balance is necessary. This technique is essential for farmers establishing new plantations, as many factors play a role and might not have been accounted for when picking the land plot.

Tethered drones are a good solution for this purpose, as their high altitude can provide a solid stream of information on plants' growth and natural factors affecting them.

4 Irrigation management

Monitoring and managing irrigation systems and reducing water waste is critical for farming in arid climates. Drones with hygrometers and similar payloads can monitor the humidity level in the soil and the air above it. This information helps schedule and optimize the additional irrigation needed to support the plants' growth. It is also helping avoid over-irrigation and destruction of the soil.

These surveys can be fully automated by strategically deploying autonomous drone ports, where the monitoring drones can switch batteries and upload data.

5 Crop spraying

Drones can carry and precisely spray pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers on the field, saving time and labor costs. Thanks to the availability of base data on crop health, applying these methods is much more cost-effective. Drones can deliver the necessary liquids to the crop batches which need them the most. With the correct data and drones at hand, various reports have shown that the usage of pesticides and herbicides can be halved.

As mentioned earlier, you might consider a heavier drone with a larger carrying capacity for these tasks. While a heavier load means a shorter flight time, you still want to have a meaningful amount of liquid on board.
6 Precision planting

Drones equipped with seed-planting mechanisms can plant seeds with precision and accuracy, saving time and labor costs. This technique allows many trees to be planted in weeks or months instead of years. A recent test project in Abu Dhabi showcased the power behind this approach, as the drones planted a million mangrove trees in its coastal zone to help offset the CO2 emissions. The reported planting speed reached 2000 seeds in 8 minutes.

7 Livestock monitoring

Drones can monitor the health and well-being of livestock, as well as track their movements and identify areas where they congregate. This opportunity is significant for free-range farmers, whose animals might be spread across thousands of square kilometers.

Drones equipped with loudspeakers can also herd livestock, reducing the need for human labor. AI and soil analytics can help move cattle from one field to another.

8 Wildlife monitoring

Drones can monitor wildlife populations, track their movements, and identify areas where they appear. Whether it's a predator planning to attack or a stray animal that poses a threat to plants – data from the thermal sensors can inform people about this. Automated alerts will allow the farmers to decide how to react sooner rather than later.
9 Disaster response

Drones can assess the damage caused by natural disasters such as floods, fires, and storms and help guide response efforts. Using drone data can help focus resources toward critical areas and restore agricultural processes faster.

10 Harvesting

Drones can harvest crops such as fruits and vegetables, reducing labor costs and increasing efficiency. We see this technology more frequently, especially in vertical farm projects, where high-value fruits are growing. Drones are also becoming more common in plantations, where they can help harvest or cut fruits from taller trees for people to pick from the ground.


And there you have it. There are, of course, more applications than the ones listed, and we regularly see new ideas. If you want to learn more about the potential drones have for your business, contact Microavia!