The Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry is slated to start a drone project for communities nationwide next month, aiming to facilitate the adoption of smart farming and ease the financial burden of farmers by applying advanced technology to improve productivity.
In the first phase, the project provides 500 large drones to 500 communities, covering 4 million rai of agricultural land with a projection to generate at least 1 billion baht within one year of operation.
According to DES Minister Prasert Jantararuangtong, the development of the smart farming ecosystem is a critical agenda.
Farming families account for roughly half of the country’s population, though their combined output comprises less than 10% of GDP.
“Thai farmers face many obstacles, including not owning the land they farm, a debt burden and a lack of technological applications. They also work in volatile weather conditions that result in low productivity,” Mr Prasert said.
He said the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) has developed the drone project over the past 10 months, starting from determining details of the implementation to screening drone vendors that can pass specification, safety and quality standards, according to the digital product scheme under Depa’s conditions.
Mr Prasert said the project reflects efforts to develop a smart farming ecosystem throughout the country.
Depa president and chief executive Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin said the big drones have a useful design and should reduce the working time, lower the cost of drone operations, ease drone management after training, and improve productivity.
One rai of crops can be sprayed using drones in two minutes through a precise, programmable control system, while conventional spraying takes 30 minutes per rai, he said.
The drones reduce farmers’ exposure to chemicals while increasing productivity per rai by 15% on average, said Mr Nuttapon.
The Digital Economy Fund provides support for the project. The project provides a 60% subsidy of the drone’s cost for communities that want one. One community comprises up to 20 farming households, and members can rent the drones.
Communities can seek financial support from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, which is a project partner, or from other financial sources.
He said three drone vendors have passed Depa’s product specifications.
The drones for smart farming have been fine-tuned for specific farming processes and could result in the development of big data for the agricultural sector, said Mr Nuttapon.
The project also provides training on drone control for communities, targeting 1,000 trainees in five regions, as well as drone repair training for 100 technicians.
The project plans to develop five drone-control skill development centres and promote 50 community businesses related to drone services and repair in five regions.
The project requires approval from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand, he said.