A report by MarketsandMarkets predicts that the agricultural drone market will increase to $4.8 billion by 2024 from around $1.9 billion currently.
Once regarded as part of a niche sector, agriculture drones are increasingly becoming a mainstay of farming. All indications from ag drone market report show rapid uptake of UAV technology in the foreseeable future.
Since agriculture accounts for at least a third of global GDP, the potential rewards for stakeholders in the industry are enormous.
Factors fueling growth
As the world’s population keeps rising, demand for food also increases.
This, coupled with increasing pressure on ever-shrinking arable land, calls for innovation in farming.
Drones in agriculture are part of this much-needed innovation.
Farmers seeking greater efficiency in the fields, faster results for crop and yield monitoring, and a cut in operating costs are increasingly investing in agricultural drones.
Competition, both locally and internationally, has also led farmers to look for ways to increase yield while cutting costs. Drones have helped a great deal.
The willingness of investors and venture capitalists to pour money in this red hot sector has also helped growth.
This has led to more companies jumping into the agricultural drone market. Not all of them are coming to make drones.
Some companies provide drones as a service, helping farmers who cannot buy or operate their drones.
Others specialize in software that analyzes images and maps taken by agricultural drones.
Some startups provide drone management services to large-scale farms, helping plan flights, coordinate drone maintenance, and other tasks associated with traditional fleet management.
Old and new insurance companies have also benefited from the increasing use of drones in agriculture, providing liability and other types of insurance to farmers and drone operators.
Common applications of agricultural drones
As opposed to other commercial drones that are mainly used for surveillance, agriculture drones do much more. Some of their uses include:
- Soil assessment aimed at gauging temperature, slope, and moisture. Soil sampling is an essential step in any crop production process.
- Improving crop models by studying which varieties are more productive and resilient.
- Analyzing crop fertility at various intervals. This makes it easier to apply just the right amount of fertilizer.
- Through digital mapping, farmers can determine the kind of crop protection measures they need to take. Suitable mapping software includes DroneDeploy, Pix4Dfields, and DroneMapper.
Main players in the market
The five biggest drone manufacturers in the agriculture drone market are:
- AGEagle LLC, which produces mainly fixed-wing drones.
- China-based DJI, which is the overall leader in the commercial and civilian drones market.
- Senterra LLC
- AGCO Corp
Other notable players include Yamaha, Honey Comb Corp, Trimble Inc., Agribotix LLC, and Parrot SA.
North America ranks as the biggest single market for agriculture drones.
This is attributable to having an established technology base, a higher purchasing power, and support from the FAA.
Another reason is the desire of farmers to adopt efficient and cost-saving practices. This positive environment is also responsible for attracting investment into the market.
The second largest market is Europe, followed by Asia-Pacific, South America, the Middle East, and Africa.
The biggest opportunity for drone manufacturers and service providers lies in emerging markets. Since they’ve barely scratched the surface, there’s massive room for expansion.
Rising adoption of drone technology is also fueling another sector; drones as a service.
Drone operation requires one to have a pilot’s license and follow stringent rules while handling them.
Since every farmer cannot afford to buy and train as a drone operator, they prefer to hire qualified drone operators.
Moreover, ag drone market report says that future innovations include drones with the ability to perform synchronized swarm spraying. This will save a lot of time and money.
Although they promise long-term cost savings, new agriculture drones can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This is out of reach of most small scale farmers.
On the political front, the America-China trade standoff recently threatened to spill into the drone industry. This occurred after the Trump administration raised concerns about possible security risks involved in using Chinese manufacturer DJI’s drones in America.
Despite these challenges, growth in the agricultural drone market will continue accelerating as more farmers discover the efficiency, performance.