Vladimir Kravtsov: About drones and people in agricultural production

October 02, 2023
Володимир Кравцов: про дрони та людей в агровиробництві
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Experience in implementing UAVs in agribusiness, Agro-region/DroneUA. 

Modern agribusiness dictates the requirement to be innovative, to apply new technologies to increase the efficiency of agricultural production. Agro-region — one of the leading companies in the implementation of innovative technologies and the most active user of drone technologies, an example of a systematic approach to the implementation of new technologies. DroneUA is pleased to have continued cooperation with the Agro-Region company since the first flights of the fields. We are publishing an interview with Vladimir Kravtsov, COO Agro-Region, so that every farmer can gain a piece of experience in implementing innovative technologies.

General information:

Vladimir Kravtsov, Operations Director, Agro-Region LLC Ukraine. Land bank of the enterprise: 37,000 hectares, in four regions of Ukraine – Kyiv, Chernigov, Zhitomir and Khmelnitsky. Specialization: growing corn, soybeans, sunflowers, wheat, barley. Exports are carried out to countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. Total number of employees – 480.

There are two types of problems in agricultural production – anthropogenic and naturalAnd if everything is clear with the gradation according to the type of natural problems, then human participation is divided into all types of operations in which he is involved. From my practice – Most of the problems on the field arise precisely because of the human factor.

Drones help assess the scale of the problem. To understand a situation, you always need to start from something. Therefore, the condition of crops should be assessed only on a field-wide scale. I realized this 4 years ago, when I entered agricultural production. Back then, it was customary to talk about the scale of problems only in numbers, and these numbers sometimes had nothing to do with reality. I needed a general and clear visual picture, which only photographs could provide.

There are problems that we can solve immediately after detection, and there are also those that become experience for the next year. We can immediately solve problems with sprayer skipping, with seeding continuous crops, or with soil uniformity processing. Sometimes it is possible to see a deficiency of batteries. For example, using a drone, we once diagnosed a copper deficiency in corn. Our team meets regularly after a season of intense work. We review the images, discuss the condition of the crops and draw conclusions about what can be changed or improved in our technology, how we can prevent this or that problem. For example — problems with the sprayer. We came to the conclusion that to control the uniformity of pesticide application, a field track is not enough for us; we also need to know the application rate per hectare.

Over time, you begin to “read” picturesthat is, look at them and understand exactly what the problem is: how the seeder worked, the direction of its movement, where the sprayer went, how the spreaders worked, whether harrowing was carried out. You notice all the gaps, overlaps, etc. This understanding comes through a detailed analysis of technical maps, observations of the behavior of different hybrids and varieties of the same crop, and GPS tracking.

Sunflower on sandy soils. 2014

Visual demonstration of the spreader's passing quality.

For quick field monitoring, RGBimages are sufficient for us. We receive vegetation indices from satellites.

We don’t always make orthophotos. This requires a lot of time, and during the season it simply isn’t available. In order to capture the entire or almost entire field with an image, we place the drone at a certain angle, at a certain height. This is enough to understand whether everything is in order with the culture.

Number of overflights and culture. We begin making overflights as soon as the culture begins to photosynthesize and switches to autonomous power supply, that is, when it is already visible from the air. We track all stages of development, generally at weekly intervals. In our company these processes are clearly established.

It makes a difference who does the flyby – someone who works in the field or a representative of a company providing flight services. For a person “not initiated” It is difficult to immediately assess the situation in the farming technology of a particular farm; this can lead to erroneous decisions.

The operator must understand exactly how to take pictures. The problem must be photographed from all possible angles and these images must be of high quality. First of all, they should cover the field as much as possible, without the sky for half of the photo.

Crop loss due to soil compaction

Visual demonstration of soil heterogeneity

The operator must understand exactly how to take pictures. The problem must be photographed from all possible angles and these images must be of high quality. First of all, they should cover the field as much as possible, without the sky for half of the photo.

Using a drone will not solve all problems and will not provide a guaranteed solutionThis is only one of many tools for comprehensive monitoring.

Often a person is not even aware of the problems in his field. Those who say that everything is in order with their fields simply do not have all the information. If the areas are large, then it is not possible to get around everything. How can you judge the condition of the entire field by examining only some part of it? Therefore, drone monitoring is economically justified for me.

People are skeptical about using drones until they see their fields from above. Just because you think you're doing well doesn't mean you are. This also does not mean that nothing needs to be changed. You can blame the weather, you can look for excuses, or you can simply work for results and use all possible methods for this.

What prevents a person from paying attention to the use of drones? In fact, it all depends on the person. Some people are inert by nature, it is difficult for them to perceive and use innovations, because in this case they need to learn, make efforts, and break some stereotypes. There is another category of people – those who do not consider themselves perfect and always want to be better. And they are ready to criticize their work, to perceive and accept something new, they learn. In general, in order to keep up with the times and technologies, in order to achieve certain results, you need to change either your thinking or the performers on the spot.

Using a drone successfully in agriculture requires enthusiasm. Everything else comes with practice. Of course, the most important thing is not to crash the drone. But modern models are as easy to use as possible and more reliable. Managing them is not difficult.

People must be interested to work. They must understand what they are doing and why. And for this they should have all kinds of technical means and resources at their disposal. Then this is a successful company. There are few real specialists, but they can be “raised.” The main thing is that these people want to learn and become professionals in their field.

The prospects for the development of the use of drones are enormous. Of course, I would like to be able to locally apply pesticides using a drone or obtain images with super-precision. There may be many more different ideas regarding how drones can be used in agricultural production in the future, it all depends only on the ability to solve this technologically.

For three years we have been working with the company Drone UA. I am impressed by the fact that this company has a vision of agricultural issues, and its specialists are qualified, always open to dialogue and work quickly. They have a clear strategy for cooperation with the client. If problems arise, they are resolved very quickly.

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DroneUA is an international system integrator of unmanned solutions and robotics.

On the market of Ukraine and Eastern Europe, the DroneUA group of companies is the largest importer and distributor of leading drone manufacturers in the world and represents technological solutions from the brands XAG, EcoFlow, Pix4D, Parrot, Chasing, DroneDeploy, AgroCares and others.

The group of companies has its own engineering, production and service divisions, as well as an open data processing center. Technological solutions presented by DroneUA are used on more than 4 million hectares of cultivated areas of Ukraine. According to the results of the 2021 and 2022 agricultural seasons, more than 2.2 million hectares were protected with drone sprayers from DroneUA.

DroneUA is among the top three most innovative businesses in the agricultural sector of Ukraine according to FORBES and among the twenty most innovative enterprises of Ukraine.

The group of companies continues to expand the list of technological brands that it presents on the Ukrainian market, and is active in agriculture, the oil and gas industry, as well as in the fields of energy, geodesy and topography.

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