Belfast Telegraph

Drones set to revolutionise farming

The devices will help farmers count plants and calculate crop density.

A picture taken with a drone of a Border crossing between Co Fermanagh in Northern Ireland and Co Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland near the town of Clones (Niall Carson/PA)
A picture taken with a drone of a Border crossing between Co Fermanagh in Northern Ireland and Co Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland near the town of Clones (Niall Carson/PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

Drones are set to revolutionise farming in Ireland through a major research project aimed at improving and enhancing the aerial vehicle.

While drones are already used in a number of areas including filming and search and rescue, they could soon become the future of farming.

Data collected by drones can be translated into useful information for farmers.

Images provided by the drones will count plants, their sizes, height as well as crop density.

It will also detail whether there are infestations and where water is needed in fields.

The crops are monitored in the field from when they are planted to harvesting.

The data will also give the number of animals in the field and whether the animal is standing or lying on the ground.

Dr Tim McCarthy, senior lecturer at Maynooth University, explained the research was produced from the U-Flyte project.

“The project looked at how we use these drones for mapping out the real world and looking at how they can be used for logistics and also supporting specialist services, like search and rescue,” he added.

“Farmers can use a drone to check the quality of grass land, weed control and trying to figure out if you have infestation.

“We are sending drones up to not only count animals but figuring out if there are lying down or standing up or if there are in a place in a field they shouldn’t be, like caught in a ditch.

“Drones are highly automated and they can programmed to take off to fly a flight plan and land really without any human intervention.

“In the future you might have a sheep farmer who spends a lot of time going out and counting animals, so you can imagine the future of that person sitting in the kitchen pressing a button, the drone takes off and not only counts the animals but make sure they are OK and the animals are in reasonable shape.

“It might be that some of them are due to give birth and it might keep an eye on that before the farmer brings them in.”

The technology could save farmers time and money as well as through its automated collection of data.

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Mark Wilson, a farmer from Monaghan, with a drone (Cate McCurry/PA)

Further research is being carried out at Maynooth University to improve how drones are used.

It comes as Minister for Business Heather Humphreys announced 25 million euro funding for six infrastructure projects, including the National Autonomous Technologies Data Platform at the university.

Ms Humphreys was given a demonstration of how a drone can transform agriculture at a farm in Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan.

She said: “It’s amazing to see how things are changing in terms of food production, agriculture and how this new technology can change the way we do things.

“The drone we saw is able to photograph the landscape and then you can quickly identify where you need to take remedial action in terms of crops.

“It’s very important for the future as that’s what future jobs are all about. It’s about embracing new technology and preparing us for tomorrow’s world.

“Farming has been transformed over the years. I see Irish farmers are always willing to embrace new technology.

“It helps farmers to do their jobs better and be more productive.”

PA

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