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The role of drones in farming

Author NFU Mutual |

The use of drones is at the forefront of modern farming.

From robot crop pickers to recording crop data, drones are changing everyday farming tasks. With agricultural technology continuing to develop and new uses for these airborne gadgets being discovered, this trend is showing no sign of landing anytime soon.  

To take a closer look at how farmers are using drones we visited Warwickshire based arable farmer Toby Gasson. Toby purchased a DJI Mavic Pro at a cost of £1,000 and is initially using it to scare pigeons away from his crops and monitor its health by looking to spot signs of possible plant disease. He also plans to use it for aerial surveys to find broken field drains and check for potential leaks in his grain store roof.

Despite agreeing that the drone will be a vital tool in assessing crop development, Toby doesn’t think it will fully replace traditional crop walking, as he doesn’t think they’ll be able to see the difference between black grass and a wheat plant. 

The sky’s the limit

Farming has perhaps only just begun to scratch the surface of the drone’s full potential, however. Jack Wrangham of Drone AG, a specialist in developing agricultural drone technology, joined us on our visit of Toby’s farm and brought along a host of hi-tech tools that would be of use to farmers.

Apps such as Drone Deploy can instantly capture and piece together a digital map of fields and transmit them to a tablet or phone. Jack also believes crop walking can be done in a similar way. He outlines an app called Skippy Scout, that takes sample photos from a metre above the crop and can analyse and identify black grass and insect damage.

It won’t just be arable farmers benefiting from drone technology either. It’s still early days, but thermal technology and Artificial Intelligence could allow livestock farmers to detect health issues in their animals at an earlier stage.

Rules and regulations

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) include their Drone Code in the sale of most drones in the UK, and it can also be found at The main rules include:

  • Do not fly your drone over 400ft (120m)
  • Keep your drone 150ft (50m) away from people and properties
  • Your drone should be 500ft (150m) away from crowds and built up areas
  • It is illegal to fly drones inside an airport’s flight restriction zone without permission
  • Always keep your drone in sight

In most cases farmers will not need a PfCO licence, as this is only required for commercial use, such as operating a drone over someone else’s land in exchange for payment.

Protecting your drone

Drones are an exciting new technology opening up a host of new possibilities for farmers and as such require appropriate protection, just like any other piece of machinery.

In partnership with Gallagher’s aviation team, we can offer a tailored drone insurance solution to make sure you have any potential liabilities covered.