Farming is changing as rapidly as any industry. The intersection of virtual reality, commercial autonomous flying vehicles, i.e., drones, and data drive agriculture to creating exciting opportunities for software developers to support the growth of digital resources. Technology is taking humans out of the field and replacing them with sensors and remote viewing to improve crop yields and quality.
Farming Goes High Tech With Drones, VR And Big Data
Apart from a cultural outreach that allows viewers to experience life in a farming community, you might not expect VR to have widespread applications down on the farm. As it turns out, agricultural VR shows the potential to become a multi-billion dollar business in the next few years. With remote access to visual images and video, farmers do not have to go out to locations to gather enough information to make smart crop management decisions.
Simple commercially available aerial drones, instrumented with inertial sensors, GPS, powerful processors, and imaging sensors can give farmers and data scientists tremendous advantages in the field. The combination of new technologies in commercial drones and 360-degree video, as well as the Big Data approach to farming, shows the potential of technologies whose time has come.
Wide Angle Crop Inspection
Putting 360-degree cameras on drones and flying over crops empowers the trained eyes of farming experts, allowing them to save time and consult further afield, but still make accurate interpretations of the conditions that exist.
In the context of current agricultural usage, drones tend to be small, commercially available fixed-wing or quad-copter aircraft and they are showing promise as imaging platforms; they collect real-time data at a fraction of the cost of purchasing remote sensing satellite imagery.
Drones that have sufficient endurance and the appropriate sensors and data links can travel to the extreme edges of farms to conduct investigations more rapidly and efficiently than a human so that remote monitoring is a force multiplier for farms of the near future.
Regulated Flight Activities And Operational Practicalities
In the United States, current FAA regulations limit the use of drones operating beyond the line of sight. Fortunately, the agency has agreed to rules that allow extended ranges of activity for agricultural drones, where farmers were technically breaking the law previously.
The technology advocates at the Robohub have documented the experience of operating drones for farms. They have compiled a list of Ten Lessons for Farm Drones that details practical tips about operating drones in support of agriculture.
Insights on the list include realizing that different crops require tailored technical solutions, control with phones and laptops is preferable to laptops, and service providers are more successful when they market their offerings to agronomists and farming consultants rather than directly to the farmers.
Software Developer Outlook For Digital Agricultural Platforms
Software developers who wish to work in agriculture have several avenues by which to pursue such a career. Farms need data science applications, autonomous aerial vehicles, and imaging technologies such as VR.
At present, virtual reality image gathering and platform development provide splendid development opportunities. Programmers with VR programming skills will be in high demand, in agriculture and a plethora of other industries for the foreseeable future.