Agricultural Drones in Brazil: A Look at Training and Practical Use

Soybean field in Mato Grasso, Brazil photographed by drone
This soybean field in Mato Grasso, Brazil, was photographed from 65 meters up by an agricultural drone.

Technology adoption usually occurs in stages. In agriculture, it progresses best when new innovations are spurred by competition, and the technology itself clearly improves worker and production efficiency. New technologies are a must in helping to increase production in pastures and crops worldwide. Without them, it will be difficult to feed a planet with a population estimated to be at 10 billion people by 2050.

Thankfully, a variety of new technologies in agriculture grows considerably each day. The marketplace ranges from simple solutions, to the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), popularly known as drones, as well as the software and platforms that map and monitor how crops are growing.

Drones in Brazil
The practical use of agricultural drones has become increasingly common in Brazil.

In Mato Grosso, Brazil, the use of drones in pasture and crop production has become increasingly common. According to the instructor accredited to the National Rural Apprenticeship Service of Mato Grosso (SENAR-MT), Edson Jabur, use of UAVs creates several opportunities for producers. According to him, drone users can perform regular flights to follow the development of the crop, capturing images and analyzing them chronologically.

In agriculture, drones can be used for a number of purposes, including pest and disease detection, identification of irrigation problems, discovering planting flaws, monitoring plant vigor, and inspecting fences, Jabur says.

The long-awaited and desired result with the use of technologies is directly linked to the capacity for multi-disciplinary integration. That is, there is no use having modern and expensive equipment if there is no exchange of experiences among professionals who work on a farm. Rural farmers, veterinarians, agronomists, drone pilots, and information technology professionals need to work together in search of solutions to increase productivity and efficiency. To extract the best of what each technology offers, you must have qualified and skilled professionals. With the increase in the demand for skilled labor to operate drones, SENAR-MT launched a training program on drone operation in agriculture.

Drones in Brazil
There’s high demand for training operators of agricultural drones in Brazil.

The purpose of the training is to empower rural producers to embrace this new technology. The need for knowledge is very great. “Since it was made available in the institution’s portfolio in September 2016, we have trained more than 180 rural producers in several municipalities in Mato Grosso,”  said Otávio Celidonio, the superintendent of SENAR-MT. “The expectation is that by the end of 2017, more than 240 people will do this training.”

Currently, in the farms that I consult in Mato Grosso, we are using drones to evaluate the quality of soybean planting. With the use of the Drone Deploy platform, we created flight plans and have managed to get excellent orthomosaic photos.

Using this tool and evaluating various fields and photos, we were able to identify some operational problems such as sowing depth, low pressure and/or too much pressure on the planting lines, pest attack, autopilot problems, and germination of some seed lots.

We are still evaluating a lot of maps because planting has just finished in Mato Grosso. Other imaging platforms such as Agisoft and Pix4D are being evaluated by the technology units of the farms that I serve. Information such as this helps farmers to better manage their crops and correct operational problems that may occur, but it still has a lot of room for growth in Brazil.

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