Thailand’s One Drone, One Community project aims to boost smart farming and economy

Image courtesy of Bangkok Post

The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) has announced its plan to launch a pioneering project in Thailand that will provide large drones to communities and offer training in drone maintenance to encourage smart farming development. The initiative, titled “One Drone, One Community,” is backed by the Digital Economy Fund and aims to create an economic impact exceeding 800 million baht across 500 communities, with a planned start date in July.

Depa president and chief executive Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin highlighted that the project still requires approval from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand. Approximately half of the country’s total population is involved in farming, but numerous challenges are faced by this sector, including land ownership issues, heavy debt burdens, and a lack of technological applications. Unpredictable weather often results in low productivity, with the combined output of the agriculture sector representing under 10% of GDP. Additionally, farmers do not have the ability to determine the selling price of their produce on the global market.

Nuttapon discussed how the project could effectively address these key issues, as the large drones could potentially reduce working hours, lower operation costs, and improve productivity. When utilising drones for crop spraying, the necessary time per rai could be reduced to just two minutes via a precise programmable control system, compared to the current 30 minutes. Furthermore, the use of drones can help limit farmers’ exposure to chemicals while increasing productivity per rai by an average of 15%.

Under the project, each community interested in obtaining a drone will be provided with one, with a single community potentially consisting of 20 farmer households. The project will contribute a 60% subsidy towards the cost of the drone, while communities will be responsible for the remainder. Financial support can be sought from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (one of the project’s partners) or other financial sources.

Initially, Nuttapon expects the project to cover 1.25 million rai of agricultural land throughout the country. Beyond supplying the drones, the project will also provide upskilling courses in drone control for 1,000 trainees in five regions, along with drone repair training courses for 100 technicians. Additionally, five drone-controlling skills development centres will be established, and 50 community businesses related to drone services and repair will be promoted across five regions.

The “One Drone, One Community” project is seen as the first nationwide promotion of drone usage, incorporating an ecosystem that involves all smart farming stakeholders, including farmers, communities, regional small businesses, technicians, and people. Nuttapon indicated that optimised drones for smart farming could serve specific farming processes, potentially leading to the development of big data within the agriculture sector, reports Bangkok Post.

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