Drones that spray the fields without manual control are to become the future of agriculture, with help from Hecto Drone and a grant from the Innovation Fund Denmark.
The green transition for agriculture is getting reinforcement from two drone experts who, with their Danish startup Hecto Drone, will develop autonomous drones for spot and precision spraying. Following a collaboration with Innvite, Hecto Drones has received a grant from the Innovation Fund Denmark through the fund’s Innobooster program.
Spot and precision spraying are golden words for today’s farmers. The focus is on reducing the amount of pesticides used in agriculture. In the EU, many restrictions have been implemented to ensure that agriculture does not burden the environment with unnecessary use of chemical pesticides. In Denmark, we are furthermore very concerned with the protection of groundwater.
Precision spraying means that the farmer only distributes a precise amount of pesticides based on the photosynthesis of the crops. Spot spraying, on the other hand, only distributes pesticides at the appointed spots of the field where there is a need. In both scenarios, the farmer ends up consuming fewer pesticides compared to today, where the pesticides are evenly distributed throughout the field.
The technology behind spot and precision spraying is still under development and is difficult to access for farmers. It is Hecto Drone’s ambition to overcome this issue with their fully automated solution.
Since 2017, Hecto Drone has developed drones for use in agriculture to replace the tractor. The goal is that the drone scans the photosynthesis of the field with multi-spectral cameras, that photograph the field in five different spectra. With built-in algorithms and artificial intelligence, a Normal Difference Vegetation Index map is calculated based on the images, which show the level of photosynthesis in the plants and divide them into zones according to the state of the plant. After the drone scans the field, it will fly in a continuous loop between the field and the docking station, automatically supplying it with the correct amount of spray.
With a grant from the Innovation Fund Denmark, Hecto Drone will initiate a planned test spraying plan, which has already been approved by The Danish Environmental Protection Agency and is in collaboration with Aarhus University, Department of Agroecology. The ambition is to minimize the consumption of pesticides and thus promote a green conversion, without reducing the quality of the crops.