Agricultural Uses of Drones

Meg Gerli
November 9, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2017


Fig. 1: Drone covering mass areas of land. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Technology is a powerful tool. We are living in a time where technology has become a primary resource for communication, world updates, education, transportation and so much more. Unmanned aerial vehicles, up and coming devices more commonly known as drones, are going to revolutionize agriculture.

What is A Drone?

A drone is an aerial high-flier that was initially created to capture video footage and images. It's important to note that drones are not new technology. However they're being enhanced to revolutionize many industries. For example, Amazon is developing a way to use drones as a package delivery mechanism. Amazon is struggling to move forward in their efforts to use drones for delivery because of federal regulation. However, there are fewer risks when the drone is removed from heavily populated areas. In large agricultural fields in rural America, there is little concern about flying drones because they are in open fields. [1]

Drones are transforming agricultural fields as they are having a large impact on crop growth as well as farmer life. Instead of using satellites, manned planes and walking the field, farmers will be able to monitor their crops with drones. Drones are presently able to display live video of their flight route, but they can be further enhanced with infrared cameras and sensors. Installing thermal sensors on a drone will give it the ability to identify early physical characteristics of plant stress. After the suffering crops are detected, a farmer can begin analyzing them and find a solution before it is too late. [2]

The drones are capable of doing soil and field analysis as they help farmers oversee hundreds of acres of land. They are saving famers big money by managing crop spraying and monitoring. The drone can detect what areas of the land are dry, ensuring an even hydration of the crops. In addition, seeing a bird's-eye image of the crops, farmers can identify areas of disease and save large areas of their crop land before plant disease spreads.

The Future

One single drone, with an average starting price of $1,000, can cover eighty acres of land an hour. (See Fig. 1.) Drones are going to revolutionize the agricultural industry as they help produce, contain and tend to hundred of acres of land. Agriculture consumption is predicted to increase by nearly 70 percent in the next 30 years due to an large expected population growth. With high demand of agricultural crops, farmers need a way to increase productivity so that they can meet the needs of consumers. [1]

Drones are starting to be used all over the world for agricultural purposes: Canada, Australia, Japan and Brazil included. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International predicts that agricultural drones will eventually make up the large majority of the drone market. [2] Not only are these devices the future, but agricultural production is only going to gain importance as world population increases and productivity and efficiency become key factors of success.

© Meg Gerli. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] M. Mazur, "Six Ways Drones are Revolutionizing Agriculture," Technology Review, 20 Jul 16.

[2] C. Doering, "Growing Use of Drones Poised to Transform Agriculture," USA Today, 23 Mar 14.