Catapult drone catalyst programme trials drone at Kent orchard

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The Drone Pathfinder Catalyst Programme has demonstrated how drone technology and AI can be used within the agriculture industry and in particular within the high-value crops fruit industry, during a recent trial at a Kent-based farm.

Delivered by Connected Places Catapult, and funded but the Department for Transport, the programme was announced earlier this year and aims to promote emerging technologies as a driver for growth.

As part of this latest trial, the programme partnered with Bardsley Farm, climate technology company Bx-Earth, farming technology provider Agri Epicentre and orchard management platform Outfield Technology.

The collaboration looked to showcase how AI, 3D mapping and the use of remote controlled drones can be used to collate yield estimates, which in turn reduces fruit variability and prevents farmers over using chemicals.

Adam Slate, orchard digitisation manager at BX Earth explained that use of drones to map the whole orchard, collecting data provides a “uniformed approach” and can help to eliminate inaccuracies.

Slate added that Bardsley Farm are an early adopter of drone technology and AI, giving them a competitive advantage. The use of drones allows the grower to gather more information gaining a “real depth of understanding”.

According to the project, the level of information acquire by drones was previously expensive to achieve and in some cases impossible to collect manually. The information provided by the drones enables growers to make informed decisions quicker.

Additionally, the Drone Pathfinder Catalyst Programme believe this technology can be rolled out into other sectors, including for fault detection in infrastructure and wildfire surveying.

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