Ag Drones Drop Sensors Like Pesticides

Agricultural drone flying over cornfield

Although the primary applications associated with drones deal with military operations, their uses in agriculture shouldn’t be overlooked. From performing field surveys to spraying pesticides, unmanned aerial vehicles have definitely found a home on the farm.

Researchers have taken those options even further by attempting to use drones to disperse tiny sensors in a manner similar to the application of pesticides. The 3D-printed biodegradable sensors, called PlantCopters, are modeled after a dandelion flower and maple seeds, which float through the air like miniature helicopters.

The basic premise of these devices is that as these sensors get stuck on the leaves of crops, they can transmit data on plant growth, general health, precipitation levels, and other conditions relative to the plants and environment. This data is sent via Bluetooth. Researchers feel that the simplicity of the approach could make it more accessible and affordable to a greater number of farmers, allowing them to make better crop management decisions.

The work is currently in its early stages, with the longer-lasting, low-power sensors in use showing that they can detect small growth changes in plants. They have also demonstrated that prototype PlantCopters can be successfully dropped from as high as 50’, although a mass airdrop has not yet been attempted.


Image Credit: Ruslan Ivantsov /

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