Drones in Precision Agriculture

Drones are flown over fields at a height ranging from 10 to 400 feet. Equipped with the right technology, they can detect soil moisture, irrigation leaks, crop temperature, and areas infested with pests or disease (Petrovic et al., 2016). They can also show health levels, and water stress within the crops (Canadian Grants Business Centre, 2016).

Drones use infrared thermal imaging and multispectral cameras to capture images or videos of the crops as it flies over the field (Petrovic et al., 2016). When it comes to drones, it doesn’t matter whether its used for sowing, irrigation, fertilization, or harvesting, the information collected can be used any time of year for more efficient crop management.  

If this intrigues you and you want to learn more about how drones are used in agriculture, visit the “Agriculture” tab on Dronemates’ website. This technology allows us to be extremely versatile and meet the needs of farmers with varying crop and field issues. Drones can even be used for monitoring livestock on large properties. A friend of ours told us about a farm in New Zealand that uses this method to track their cows.

The thermal camera examines infrared (IR) light waves and is capable of taking pictures and videos to detect soil heat, soil moisture, and irrigation issues such as leaks or blocked valves (Chicago Tribune, 2016). The information can then be delivered to farmers instantaneously. Post-processing and analysis are also possible as the files can be kept for as long as the farmer needs for reference.

The second camera is a multispectral camera able to examine near infrared (NIR) lightwaves as well as regular red, blue, and green wavelengths. When the drone flies over the crop field, it applies an algorithm known as NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) to the image. An indication of a healthy plant is when NIR wavelengths are reflected off of its leaves at a high ratio in comparison to RGB lightwaves. When NIR wavelengths are reflected at a lower ratio to RGB wavelengths, this indicates that the plants are not healthy (DroneDelpoy, n.d). When viewing an NDVI image it will be displayed in red and yellow. If there are areas of red, this indicates areas of disease, pest, pathogens, stress or dehydration. If there are areas of yellow, this indicates that the crops are currently healthy (Petrovic et al., 2016).


Petrovic, I., Marjanovic, M., Cosic, M., Savic, S., & Cvijanovic, G. (2016). Infra-red thermography for detecting drought in agricultural crops and scheduling irrigation. Ekonomika poljoprivrede, 63(2), 461-469.

Canadian Grant Business Centre. (2016). Drones for Farming. Retrieved from http://farmgrants.ca/tag/farm-drone/

Tribune News Services. (2016, August 29). In drought, drones help California farmers save every drop. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-california-drought-drones-20160829-story.html

Drone Deploy. (n.d). NDVI Cameras for Drones. Retrieved from https://support.dronedeploy.com/v1.0/docs/ndvi-cameras-for-drones#section-what-is-ndvi

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