Using Drones in Precision Agriculture for Hemp

Count plants and size canopies, monitor plant maturity and stress, and manage nutrients in your hemp fields.

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From planning nutrient inputs to evaluating when to harvest, hemp farmers can improve how they grow their plants throughout the growing season by using drone technology.

Now that hemp production is legalized in the U.S., farmers must figure out the optimal growing conditions for hemp-based CBD, while navigating federal regulations, to maximize profits. The need to produce hemp plants with 0.3 percent or less of THC combined with unfamiliarity in growing hemp in the U.S. places unprecedented stress on hemp farmers. 

To improve their farm’s profitability, hemp farmers can use drone technology to bring precision agriculture to their hemp fields:

  • Plant counting and canopy sizing. Instead of “walking the field” to estimate size, use drones and artificial intelligence to count and size plants. Use quantitative analytics to evaluate varieties, surface replanting opportunities, and monitor sexual maturity and harvest opportunities to prevent the loss of CBD concentration.
  • Stress and disease monitoring. Rather than taking random soil samples and scouting for grey or yellow mold, powdery mildew, or dark and discolored watery lesions, apply a vegetative index to immediately surface indicators of stress.
  • Precision input application. Apply tailored input treatments based on varietal type and plant health using prescription maps and zonal strategies.

By monitoring crops and adjusting inputs to specific zones, hemp farmers are saving time and costs, and optimizing their yield.

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How to Optimize Hemp Crop Management Using Drone-based Analytics



Fly a range of ready-to-fly drone and sensor hardware, field-tested for hemp crops, to gather high-quality hemp field data
Process & Analyze
Use vegetative and thermal indices to quantify the number of hemp plants, automate sizing and plant health analysis, streamline crop scouting and prescription mapping, and accelerate replant decisions
Generate prescription maps, exportable to farm management systems, and customized PDF reports

Collect Hemp Data with Drones

Access a range of purpose-built flight and sensor hardware configurations, suitable for hemp crop management, including:

  • DJI Phantom 4 or DJI Mavic drones outfitted with RGB sensors for hemp plant sizing and maturity monitoring
  • The DJI M200 drone equipped with a Zenmuse XT2 thermal  or MicaSense Altum multispectral/thermal sensors for more precise hemp leaf vigor and irrigation analysis

When and How to Fly Hemp Fields with Drones

Hemp farmers can fly drones throughout the hemp growing cycle, which lasts from roughly June to October. At any time in the growing cycle, farmers can use drone imagery and PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture to measure the size of the hemp plant’s canopy. This will highlight which varieties are thriving in the given farm’s environment and others that might be underperforming. During the flowering stage, farmers can use PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture to look for signs of maturity and monitor plant size and vigor to plan a response to the potential for pollination.

Farmers can collect RBG and multispectral hemp crop imagery to measure plant health.

Whether you’re just starting out in hemp and wanting to measure varietal performance or you’re managing a large-scale hemp operation, our industry-leading agricultural and drone experts can help you select the optimal drone and sensor platform. 

Talk to our team about your goals to learn if drone-based aerial intelligence is right for your farming operation.


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Process & Analyze with PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture


In PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture, hemp farmers can monitor crop health, maturity, and size, and run other analytic reports. Within minutes, they can see issues such as drought, flooding or disease.
By catching signs of stress earlier, farmers can better manage inputs such as irrigation, fertilizers or herbicides. They can also decide whether to replant their hemp before it’s too late in the season.

Plant Count and Sizing

PrecisionAnalytic’s plant count tools enable hemp farmers to get instant, accurate counts on the number of plants in a given zone or field, and their relative size. Plant count tools enable hemp growers to: 

  • Define an area--by variety, CBD vs. THC goals,  or other segmentation--and quantify the number of plants in it.
  • Compare the size of hemp plant canopy and monitor for male plants to prevent pollination.
  • View full-resolution imagery and zoom in on issues such as wind damage and wilting.

Vegetation Indices

In the past, when looking for signs of disease, pests and other plant stressors, farmers would walk parts of the field looking for issues such as grey or yellow mold, powdery mildew, or dark and discolored watery lesions known as hemp canker. But if those issues are visibly present on the plant, it’s likely already too late to adjust inputs or replant.

Now, using PrecisionAnalytics’ vegetative indices, farmers can use NDVI, GLI, and VARI, to identify early indicators of and trends in crop stress, which might indicate:

  • Disease--blight, grey mold, hemp canker, root rot, assorted leaf spots and stem cankers
  • Weeds--compare biomass between hemp plants and a range of dicot weeds to identify areas to apply herbicides or straw
  • Nutrient deficiency or toxicity--see parts of the hemp field where there might be a sub-optimal mix of nitrogen, phosphate, and potash 
  • Irrigation--track plants’ response to various watering strategies, which correlates with CBD content

In the field, farmers can geolocate themselves on their mobile device to quickly identify where an area of concern is relative to their position.


Precision Application of Inputs

Apply the right inputs at the right time in the growing cycle. For macronutrients, farmers can use PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture to translate vegetative indices into prescription maps for their hemp fields. 

For example, hemp is a higher user of phosphate, which is essential to have available in early crop establishment and throughout the growing season. Using PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture farmers can break up vegetation indices into tiles as small as 3-square feet and dictate a pound-per-acre (lb/acre) application of phosphate. Early in the growing season, they might choose to apply more phosphate to specific zones of the field that are growing slower than others. Later in the season, they can choose to apply less based on reported plant vigor. To apply the fertilizer to the field, the user can then export a prescription file directly into a farm management system for fertilizer application.


Custom Zones and Comparison View

Want to analyze how different hemp plant varieties develop and survive under different environmental conditions?

With PrecisionAnalytics Zonal and comparison view, hemp farmers can: 

  • Build management zones within a hemp field ranging from 10 rows to 1000 acres, or more
  • Determine count, size, and specific areas of stress for that zone, and treat it separately
  • Track how their management strategies impacted the trajectory of their hemp yield, from emergence to sexual maturity and beyond
  • Use vegetative indices to quantify the impact of treatment differences (such as varieties of hemp, nutritional inputs, and chemistries) across plots 
  • Use comparison view to toggle between datasets and analyze year-over-year trends in crop growth


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.


An early-mover in hemp precision agriculture
PrecisionHawk is among the first aerial analytics companies to collect and analyze hemp crop data.


Trusted by the world’s largest hemp growers
We’ve partnered with some of the top growers of hemp to pioneer large-scale hemp precision farming practices.



Partners to agriculture research institutions
We’ve worked with North Carolina State University to deploy drones over hemp varietal test plots.


More than just imagery
Partnering with leading manufacturers MicaSense, Headwall, and DJI, our system processes data from a range of visual, thermal, multispectral, and hyperspectral sensors--purpose-built for vegetative analysis.
Ag tech by ag pros
Our industry-leading team of Ph.D. and remote sensing-accredited geospatial analysts ensure our ag tech follows leading agronomic science principles.


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Redefine the limits of yield intensification, using drone-based data collection and analytics.

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