Using Drones to Manage Crops and Livestock

How drone technology can aid in farming various plants and animals

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There’s more to drones in agriculture than photos of fields. For each type of plant and animal, there are different ways to use drone and artificial intelligence technology to improve farming outcomes.


Using PrecisionHawk’s crop management solution, featuring PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture, farming professionals can:

Drone Use Cases by Crop



Corn farmers can scout their cornfields using drones. Where before, they estimated plant counts by sampling the number of corn plants in 1/1000th of an acre, they can now use drones and artificial intelligence to quickly and precisely count plants in an entire field and refine their corn planting maps. Rather than “eyeballing” issues such as rolling, browning, and yellowing, they can identify patterns of stress by applying a vegetation index to their entire cornfield. Based on those patterns they can automatically generate prescription maps.



Since weeds can wreak havoc on soybean crops, farmers are using drones to gauge the relative maturity of their plants and look for closure in the canopy. Though said closure makes it difficult to count soybean plants, farmers can use drones to conduct a stand count in the emergence stage--critical information for making replant decisions.



Hemp and cannabis growers use drone-based data and analytics to better navigate the uncertainty surrounding the hemp growing cycle. A wide range of varieties is available in the fast-emerging sector. Drones enable farmers to closely measure how different varieties perform in the local environment. Those farming hemp for CBD can use regular drone flights to monitor for signs of maturity in the flowering stage, catching male plants before they pollinate a field.


Citrus Trees

Orchardists use drone-based analytics to inventory--count and size--trees, catch diseases before they occur, and streamline input management. Instead of driving up and down rows of trees, farmers can execute a single drone flight to capture up to 600 acres of their orchard. They can then use PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture to precisely measure the size of each tree’s crown, inferring age and vigor. Orchardists can also apply vegetation indices to catch early signs of disease, such as blight, rust, or citrus greening.


Nut Trees

Nut farmers are using drones to count trees and size canopies, monitor for disease stress, and plan tree inputs. Orchardists are replacing ground-based sampling with aerial analytics to surface replanting opportunities and deliver instant comparisons on tree age and vigor. Once a disease, or threat of it, has been identified, farmers can create custom quarantine and input management zones.



By flying drones over their berry patches, farmers can detect stresses such as low nitrogen or pathogens, measure the density of canopy cover, and determine the temperature of plants. They can apply a vegetation index in PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture to identify potential signs of diseases--such as blight, rust, or berry silverleaf--and catch drought stress. Canopy sizing tools give farmers an indication of maturity and readiness for harvest, too.


Turf growers can fly drones to collect multispectral data and, in PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture, apply a Green Leaf Index algorithm. The algorithm helps them identify potential nutrient deficiencies and pest damage. Furthermore, turf farmers can get quantified data about the effectiveness of the various inputs they use to treat sprigs. This gives them a data-driven basis for developing an input mix that grows grass quicker and establishes a stronger root system.


Cattle, sheep, chickens, pigs, and other free-range animals can be difficult to keep track of. Especially, on large ranches. But, farmers can fly drones over hundreds, if not thousands, of acres to regularly capture a snapshot of their herds. And PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture can evaluate drone imagery to deliver an accurate count. By deploying a thermal camera on a drone, farmers can identify sick livestock by their signature elevated body temperature.

Other Crops
This is just a sample of how farmers, agronomists, and researchers can add drones and artificial intelligence to their farming operations. PrecisionAnyltics Agriculture has processed millions of acres of imagery, including the assets discussed above and:


Leafy Greens


Accelerating agriculture research

An agribusiness research company tested drones on the crops it grew at its research stations. Instead of surveying plots manually it deployed drones. The results:

2.5X more efficient than sampling
25% more accurate than hand counts
Surveyed full plots instead of sampling 10% to 40% of the field

Read the case study →

BASF quantified turf improvements

By quantifiably measuring sprig growth and green quality, BASF Turf and Landscape proved a 24 percent increase in Green Level Index for sprigs treated with Lexicon®. Now, according to Gary Myers, CGCS, BASF Pinehurst Project Lead, BASF is able to “use the data as the foundation of [their] presentations to prospective customers and golf course superintendents.” 

Read the case study →

Why PrecisionHawk?

We’ve built our offerings to scale. From investing in geospatial science expertise to understanding the regulatory environment, we’re able to support a one-time flight or a fully integrated enterprise aerial intelligence program.


Actionable intelligence for all types of crops

It’s not just imagery. We offer a web interface featuring analytics, powered by artificial intelligence, that is tailored to a wide range of farm management activities.

10 years of drone-based crop management

We got our start in agriculture as WineHawk: an aerial robotics company for vineyards. Since then, we’ve built our drone portfolio to serve farmers of a variety of crops.

Used by leading agrochemical and seed companies

We’ve developed crop-specific technologies for the world’s top agronomic enterprises, honed for scientific precision.

Working with agricultural research institutions

We’ve flown drones for the USDA, North Carolina State University, and many other organizations that are advancing the applications of drone technology on farms and ranches.

The World’s Largest Commercial Drone Pilot Network

More than 15,000 licensed operators are available to fly any site in the United States within 24 to 72 hours.

Agriculture sensing-ready

The drones we offer can be flown with sensors by MicaSense, Headwall, DJI, and other manufacturers producing sensors for agricultural use cases.

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