Traditional farming techniques are extremely resource-intensive, where huge amounts of fertilizers and pesticides are added to the soil without taking into account the existing conditions of soil and land. Along with this, water is applied to all the fields equally with no consideration of the variability of water uptakes for different plants. These issues and many others cannot be easily detected through land-based tools and technologies. For this matter thermal imaging is finding its applications in agriculture, it works on the idea that plants like many other things reflect visible and near-infrared radiations. These radiations can be monitored and data collected can help in the identification of problems related to farming ranging from improper irrigation, diseases, pests, over-planting, inappropriate use of fertilizers, and many more.
Usage of drones for thermal imaging has an advantage over satellite-based supervision. Most importantly they give freedom of precise monitoring which is not quite possible with satellite- or aircraft-based systems. Moreover, drones fly at a moderate height and so their images are not influenced by atmospheric hindrances, also operational costs for drones are lower than deploying a satellite.
In agriculture, irrigation scheduling is one of the most important factors for the desired production. Poor and ill-managed irrigation is not easy to detect without using thermal imaging. Thermal infrared range of spectrum can be used in precision agriculture to detect plants that are facing water stress or low soil water. The fertility of the soil is an important factor for optimal crop yield, nutrient deficiency or addition of extra nutrients are difficult to be identified through usual practices but the use of thermal sensors can easily give appropriate data required for soil management. Soil salinity is another issue that can affect crop growth, but through thermal infrared imaging salinity stress on the crops can be detected and diagnosed.
Moreover, plant diseases and pathogens can be detected using imaging technology long before visible effects. Thermography of plants shows pre-symptomatic impacts of pathogens, which helps in early diagnosis and treatment. Forecasting and estimating crop yield is another important application of thermography by drones, it can help decision-makers about potential changes in crop production.
Similarly, crop maturity is commonly assessed through inspection and dissection of plants which is a labor-intensive and subjective process. It can also be replaced by infrared thermography which gives a continuous and better solution. Scratches and bruises on fruits and vegetables are the most common damages which affect the quality. Using imaging technology these defects can also be identified.
The usage of thermal imaging is growing rapidly in agriculture. Knowing the benefits of precision agriculture, drone imaging can be used throughout the life cycle of crops to detect problems, thus allowing farmers to analyze every phase proactively. This can greatly help in increasing yields and reducing crop damage. So using drones for thermal imaging can provide several benefits that can help in solving many problems related to farming and thus help farmers earn better value for their crops compared to relying on traditional techniques that are subjective and require excessive resources.