Drones on the horizon: Transforming Africa’s agriculture
This report (PDF) by the African Union and NEPAD provides a contextualized review of drones as a vital precision agriculture-enabling technology and its range of relevant uses for providing detailed and on-demand data in order to enhance decision-making by farmers and hence facilitate much needed support. Drones for precision agriculture is a farming management concept which is based upon measuring and responding to inter- and intra-feld variability in crop and animal production. It is not just the application of new technologies, but rather it is an information revolution that can result in a more precise and effective farm management system. In agriculture, there are several major applications of drones, for example crop scouting/monitoring, crop volume and vigour assessments, crop inventory. Drones equipped with adequate sensors have the capability to generate remote-sensing data in near real time in the field. In comparison to satellites, drones can capture very high-resolution imagery under cloud cover and at desired time intervals. It is this increased ease and speed of acquiring the imagery from drones that has the biggest potential. The deployment of drone technology in Africa has four classified challenge categories: technological, economic, social, and legal and regulatory. The report considers drone technology for precision agriculture as a potential game-changer for the African continent. It is recommended that the adoption, deployment and upscaling of drones in the context of precision agriculture is considered as a priority. Key areas to be considered in upscaling the technology and realising its potential include capacity-building, enabling or supporting infrastructure, regulatory strengthening, research and development and stakeholder engagement. A recommendation on continental level is to develop a continental regulatory framework for the use of drones in Africa and harmonize policies across countries and regions. Moreover, South-South and regional collaborations, partnerships, networks and knowledge-exchanges to facilitate the upscaling and use of drone technology should be enhanced.