The day is not far when drones would be seen over agricultural fields, not for security, but to monitor crop and soil health. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) through the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) under a collaborative research project is developing indigenous prototype for drone based crop and soil health monitoring system using Hyperspectral Remote Sensing (HRS) sensors. This technology could also be integrated with satellitebased technologies for large scale applications.
The project entitled "SENSAGRI: Sensor based Smart Agriculture" is involving six partner institutes (Agriculture & IT) to be funded by Information Technology Research Academy (ITRA), Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY), Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) and ICAR.
"Drone technology based Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has ability for smooth scouting over farm fields, gathering precise information and transmitting the data on real time basis," Sudarshan Bhagat, Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare told Lok Sabha on Tuesday. "This capability could be used for the benefit of farming sector at regional or local scale for assessing land and crop health; extent, type and severity of damage besides issuing forewarning, post-event management and settlement of compensation under crop insurance schemes," he stated.
SENSAGRI proposes advanced proof-of-concept services i.e. yield and biomass, tillage change, irrigation and advanced crop maps. The scientists will develop algorithms and these will be developed and validated. "We are currently working on the design of customised multi-rotors for remote sensing of soil and crops. Also, we are analysing the requirement for agricultural based payload for defining the specifications of a fixed wing mini UAV. However several private firms are manufacturing similar drones but our technology will be far more advanced. The drones will capture a big area in a very less time. The mapping and analysis by drones will be done at a very low cost," said Divya Sanghi working on SENSAGRI at Delhi Technological University one of the institutes associated with the project.
"The farmer will be able to analyse his profit or loss because he will get to know the yield even before it grows. Using remote analysis to assess soil moisture and crop development has the potential to cut input costs and raise yields. The analysis done by a satellite can easily assess the vegetation cover to field level."