The Japanese society has long-faced a problem of declining general population. This has resulted in the agricultural sector becoming desperately under-staffed. Adding to that the younger generation is unwilling to pick up agriculture as a profession. As a consequence, the majority of farmer population now consists of the elderly. Drones are being hailed as a solution to this massive problem.
Unmanned helicopters have been in use for some years now in Japan. Yamaha began developing pilotless drones in 1983 at the request of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and completed its first utility-use unmanned helicopter, the R-50, in 1987.
In the present scenario multi-rotor drones have taken the place of the remote controlled helicopters due to being 3 to 4 less cheaper than the remote controlled helicopters and are being used extensively for various purposes in the Japanese agricultural industry. These include surveying of fields for soil and crop monitoring. The most advanced drones are equipped with ‘pinpoint insect extermination’ through which only those areas are sprayed with pesticides which are found to be infested. This greatly reduces wastage of pesticides. Another big advantage comes in the form of time savings. For a farmer using a backpack-style pesticide sprayer, it takes a whole day to spray one hectare of land. However, the drone can do the same task in about 10 minutes. The farmers are also hoping that the inclusion of high-tech drones will also attract the younger generations towards farming. This will greatly take the workload off the shoulders of the ageing population.
Overall the farmers envisage a sea change coming to the agricultural industry as a result of induction of drones. This might as well lead to the next industrial revolution necessary to feed the next billion of global population.