Drones go from foe to an ally of cannabis farmers

Published Oct 18, 2020 01:00 p.m. ET
iStock / OpenRangeStock

These days you can find drones just about everywhere, from professional hobby shops to big box stores like Walmart. The mini flying machines of today, are nothing like those from the past. For the longest time, the only people who had high-quality drones were either incredibly well off financially or employed by a law enforcement agency, considering they were often used to detect illegal fields of growing marijuana. But now, anyone can buy one, and we’re finding more useful ways to utilize this technology.

A lot has changed over the last decade as far as technology is concerned, and the same could be said about the way we view cannabis. So, it’s only fitting that the two are now working hand in hand to provide consumers with the highest quality products possible, through aerial surveillance. What was once a cause for concern for cannabis farmers is a welcome sight because drones offer an edge that human beings cannot compete with.

The use of drones in cannabis farming

Drone photography and live footage can offer cannabis farmers a unique insight into the health and well-being of their plants. Specially designed drones can be equipped to detect everything that a farmer could ever need to know, including where water is needed, pest infestations, the presence of males, stolen or damaged plants; they can even tell when it’s time for a crop to be harvested.

This kind of aerial surveillance isn’t used on a large scale across the industry just yet, but that is only because most cannabis producers are growing marijuana indoors; in an environment that is easy to control and protected against many of the problems that outdoor farmers so often deal with. However, the farms that have chosen to implement these super drones are reporting great success so far.

Aerial surveillance is working for Christina Lake Cannabis

The Christina Lake Cannabis farm located in British Columbia manages a staggering 25 000 individual cannabis plants using drones, an effort that takes place four times each day. Here, fully automated drones armed with thermal imaging scanners, sensors cameras are tasked with scanning the skies and large areas of land for potential intruders or health issues.


The drones on this farm are so high tech that they can live stream every step of the way with precision to pinpoint every single plant, and they’re programmed to tell the difference between pesticide-free and treated sections of the crop, but they do come at a high cost. Just one of CLC’s drones is priced at between $20 000 and $30 000, so it’s a hefty investment for anyone who is just starting.

Will drones take jobs that could be done by humans?

Most who hear this news rejoice, as farmers deserve every tool possible at their disposal because we rely on them to give us nothing but the best, but some fear that the move might put real people out of high paying work. Luckily, we have absolutely nothing to fear, as all of the plant-touching positions are still needed, and if anything, it might create more jobs because we’ll need specialists who can produce and program these incredible tools.

A fruitful future for outdoor cannabis farmers

No matter how you look at it, this is great news for everyone. Farmers can now have more security and a better understanding and control over outdoor crops, which are more energy-efficient and cheaper to run than indoor facilities. This is a great move for farmers, consumers, and the environment, as the cannabis industry works to reduce its carbon footprint, bringing us just a little bit closer to a better, cleaner, more sustainable future.

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