Course overview

Drone owners, especially farmers, are being urged to fully understand the implications of using drones on their land. This course offers up to date advice on the applications for drones in crop production, the rules governing drone use and how drones can collect vital information to help with everyday farming decisions.

This introductory online course provides an overview of the potential applications of drones in crop management and covers key areas such as; Sampling Considerations, Sensor Types, Integration and Selection, Data Collection, Processing and Interpretation (in an agricultural context), plus CAA Legislation.

This course is aimed at people who have had no prior experience of using drones or remote sensing imagery. It would be a suitable course for Small Farm Owners, Farm Business Managers, Researchers in agribusinesses, Government agency employees and Agri-consultants.

Accurate information regarding crop production is becoming increasingly important. This information is needed for effective (localised) crop management decisions to increased crop production and improved timely and on-demand response. Traditional crop monitoring methods, using ground survey and aerial photography, have their limitations, in terms of cost, resolution and time to deployment for data capture.

The use of lightweight (<7 kg) and easily deployable drones can overcome this limitation. Given the increased availability of low-cost drone platforms and the increased requirement from industry, government and society alike for improved land management the use of drone in crop management is increasing.

As just one example, see this article on a drone rental company helping farmers check the health of crops and use pestercidewhere precisely where it is needed.

Learning outcomes

The e-Learning materials that make up the course include; interactive exercises, instructional videos and review quizzes (formative assessment)

On successful completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Explain the plausible applications of drones within an agricultural contex
  • Differentiate between the basic types of platforms and understand the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  • Identify the key data sets generated from drons.
  • Assess the importance of the UK Civil Aviation Authority regulatory framework.
Sessions included

This online short course will contain the following sessions:

  • Introduction to drone platform types. 
  • Summary of current and future applications that drones can offer within the agricultural context (from research to management). For example, plant counting and sizing, water resource planning, vegetation monitoring, yield prediction and disease detection.
  • Current examples derived from agricultural management practice, e.g. integration with crop models and other agronomic datasets, harvest resource planning, and market intelligence.
  • Overview of key types of platforms (fixed-wing and rotary) with an indication of advantages and limitations. 
  • Overview of CAA drone regulatory framework.
Course Rationale
  • Drones are emerging as a key engineering tool for future environmental survey tasks.
  • Traditional crop monitoring methods are more costly than drone based methods.
  • Frequent crop monitoring enables targeted and more effective crop management leading to increased yield.
  • Drones offer an effective and efficient way for remote collection of environmental data.
  • Cranfield is a leading University in aerospace, drone technology and agriculture / crop production.
  • Drones de-risk data collection operations and provide increased accessibility.
  • Drones provide high resolution imagery that enable localised allocation of resources (e.g., pesticides, irrigation).
  • The technology is becoming low-cost. As a result, there is an increased need for drone based data collection protocols that standardise procedures.
  • Current approaches rely on best guess estimates and vary from provider to provider.
  • Robust and standardise methods for data collection and processing are being developed at Cranfield.

Key facts

Course Dates
Starts Online from 27 January
Online studied over 4 months
Entry Requirements
Degree in a related subject. Relevant workplace experience may, in some circumstances, be accepted as qualification for entry to this course. Enquire directly to see if you qualify.
IFST Membership
Your course enrolment also entitles you to one year of free membership to the IFST (Institute of Food, Science and Technology).
Course Provider
Cranfield University
Course Arrangements
Full joining instructions will be confirmed by the course provider.
Course Location
Cranfield University, Online
AFTP Cohort
Course Logistics
This short course is studied online over a four-month period, which provides industry participants with the flexibility to study in their own time around any work commitments.
My AFTP training course has given me greater confidence day-to-day and more insight into the impact of new techniques and technologies.
Andy Russell - Fresh Produce Technologist, Bakkavor

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