Parrot Drones Increases Support to African Agriculture

© Parrot

A shared-cost initiative between Parrot Drones and the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) has been launched for the deployment of drones for agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. The CTA, a joint institution between the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the Europen Union, aims to increase prosperity in its participant nations through food security and sound resource management. The partnership follows Parrot’s introduction in October last year of their Bluegrass thermal imaging drone specifically designed for precision agriculture. The Parrot Bluegrass features both a video camera and multispectral sensor, Parrot Sequoia, as well as the easy to use processing cloud platform, AIRINOV FIRST+.

There is general agreement that small-scale agriculture needs to become more productive, more sustainable and more profitable. Unmanned aerial systems or UAVs can help achieve these goals by making precision farming tools available to medium and large scale producers and small-scale producers growing the same species in contiguous areas. Generally, UAV services are offered by entrepreneurs who invest in equipment, acquire skills to maneuver, perform or outsource data analysis, interpret findings and advise their clients.

UAVs can be used to document a range of services, including mapping and surveying (delineating the boundaries of a farm, calculating acreage, making digital elevation models), crop inventory (counting shrub crops, crop estimation), screening (identification of crop stress related to location, assessment of biomass development), estimation of damage to crops (for insurance reasons), Crop management consultancy (application of nitrogen on certain crops), inspection of infrastructure (irrigation systems, farm roads to the market) and increase the solvency of producers by integrating producer profiles with High resolution images, crop diagnoses, and accurate and up-to-date georeferenced datasets. UAVs can therefore help increase producer yields and create new, knowledge-intensive employment opportunities in rural areas, offering skilled youth an alternative to migration.

Conscious of these opportunities, CTA has partnered with leading private operators and has helped ICT start-ups in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Jamaica, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, to acquire the necessary skills to provide drone services. This cooperation materialized in 2016 with a series of activities including training in drone operations and a multi-spectral sensor, the understanding of the principles and regulations regarding security and privacy, the management and processing of data collected by remote sensing, business plan development and networking. In addition, CTA provided financial support for the acquisition of equipment.

On January 26 of this year, the Executive Council of the African Union (AU), called on the AU and its member states to recognize drones for agriculture as an emerging and relevant technology for the development of the African continent. In line with this continental recommendation, CTA, in partnership with Parrot – the world leader in the field of UAS for professionals – intends to step up its support to UAS operators throughout Africa.

The selected companies / organizations will benefit from training which will include the basics of using unmanned aerial systems for farming, regulation, flight plans and drone control, data capture and analysis, data interpretation concepts, and than the development of a business model. CTA will cover the cost of international transport and accommodation, and there will be partial financial support for the acquisition of equipment such as drones, sensor, and spare parts.

Participants in the program will gain one year’s free access to the AIRINOV FIRST+ agricultural cloud mapping platform with up to 100 images per day, equalling 10 hectares at a flight altitude of 150 meters. Remote support and (on the basis of merit) on-site for UAS business development will be available, as well as distance training in the use of social networks for marketing purposes and promotion of drone services through CTA’s own social media networks.

Firms / organizations registered in sub-Saharan African countries, whose activity focuses on ICT for agriculture, agribusiness or support to the agricultural sector, may read more and express their interest here. Priority is given to countries that have remote-controlled aircraft system (RPAS) regulation that guarantees the safety of airspace and are favorable to entrepreneurs / start-ups willing to invest in services.

Sarah Whittaker

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.