Drones have for several years been used in agriculture to provide fast and accurate data, helping to improve decision-making at all stages of a project, from preparation to implementation and evaluation.
Instead of seeing farmers carrying spray canisters of herbicide on their backs, marching through the rice fields, people are now seeing drones more and more often as they swoop over the paddies, spraying herbicide over tomorrow’s crops.
In Africa, the latest country to embrace drones in agriculture is Tunisia and expects to reap from the short and long terms.
Eight pilots have since successfully passed their drone flight training in Tunisia following a two-week intensive training period organized by the Ministry of Agriculture of Tunisia, the African Development Bank and Busan Techno Park.
The training which focused on handling, maintenance and the security aspects of flying drones, took place in Tunis from 19-30 November 2018.
The eight were the first batch out of 40 candidates selected for the exercise, which envisages training a total of 400 young Tunisians by 2021.
The pilot is expected to benefit piloting and monitoring of irrigated areas, management of water resources, water tables as well as the effects of climate change in the pilot area.
An agricultural drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is equipped with a spray nozzle that can handle both liquids and solids so that it can be used for agricultural purposes such as spraying herbicides or fertilizers, or for sowing seeds.
In accordance with the announced guidelines and standards, agricultural drones fall under a range of structural and functional inspections, testing their operations in terms of spray emissions and even distribution.
Basic capabilities, such as takeoff, landing and stopping in air, are tested, as well.
In Korea, agricultural drones that pass inspection are approved and supported by the ministry as government-supported agricultural machines.
Farmers who want to purchase the drones get a loan for up to 80 percent of the price.
Tunisia is taking lesson from South Korea where farmers across the nation have shown an interest in agricultural drones due to the machine’s productivity, which reduces labor and time for pest control.
In Tunisia, the project will also see the setting up of a training center equipped with training drones as well as computer simulation tools for drone control.
This center is expected to be upgraded to a center of excellence in drone technology.
The training also focused on promoting drone-centered activities in Tunisia in view of promoting efficiency and effectiveness.
“It is very good training. I want to share my experience. I would like to participate in this project and contribute for the development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in my country Tunisia and my region, Africa,” said Lazhar Meskine, an air traffic management engineer, who was among the trainees.
After accumulating 20 hours of flight time and passing the practical flight, they obtained a “Drone Pilot Certificate” recognised by the Tunisian government.
The four best trainees from this first batch will undergo further training for eight weeks to accumulate 100 hours of flight time.
This will make them eligible to take the certification examination and qualify as drone pilot trainers.
The participants were highly enthusiastic about the training.
“I have also learned many things through Tunisian trainees. It gives us a great chance to understand the local situation for further projects by using drone technologies,” their instructor, Mr. Yong-ju Seo, added.
The pilot project on the use of drones for agricultural development projects in the Sidi Bouzid region (central Tunisia), is financed by a grant from the Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC).
Korea is a leading country in the development and use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for real-time data collection and processing.