How Drones Are Making Good Wines Great
Drones are transforming viticulture in ways more than one. Here's a quick lowdown on some of the most popular uses of drones in winemaking...
Credit: Alex Wigan, Unsplash
Winemakers have traditionally relied on instinct to make their good wines great. But now, farmers and vineyard owners chasing utter brilliance are turning to technology. More specifically, drone technology.
That’s not to say that wineries were not exploring technology before the advent of drones. Bodegas Ayuso, arguably the most modern winery in Spain, has incorporated everything from automatic analysis and classification of grapes to self-emptying and self-cleaning tanks. Others have explored sensor-equipped tanks that can be remotely directed to cool down should any batch of fermenting grapes get too hot.
But all that, more or less, relates to the core production and storage of the wine. Drones, meanwhile, come into the picture for everything that needs to be done before, and everything that comes after the cabernet, chardonnay, or merlot grapes make their way into the tanks.
Drones in Winemaking: Imaging Capabilities for Precision Viticulture
Water Stress Levels: California-based Jackson Family Wines has been using drones since 2015. The winery is best known for its Kendall-Jackson chardonnay, a supermarket staple. But it also supplies dozens of other wines to countries across the globe. With drought being a recurring condition in the state, the winery fires up drones to monitor the moisture in their crops. These drones are equipped with multispectral sensors that can detect moisture by evaluating the colors of vegetation.
Disease Detection: This normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) data can also be used to detect plant diseases such as the dreaded leaf roll that can delay fruit maturity and dramatically reduce fruit quality, pigmentation, vine vigor, and yield. In the meantime, European companies are using drones to detect flavescence dorée, which causes leaves to yellow and grapes to shrivel.
Vineyard Management: Drone data, essentially, can help farmers to identify weak spots in a vineyard as well as areas with excessive vigor. This kind of knowledge can have a tremendous impact on the management of the vineyard. For example, if there’s a significant weak area, the winemaster may decide to harvest it last, or at a different time. Similarly, by relating the NDVI color classes to the ripeness and sugar levels of the grapes, different blocks in the vineyard can be harvested together to achieve more consistent wines.
Credit: Kym Ellis, Unsplash
Drones for Fertilizer, Pesticide Spraying
While China has been using drone spraying technology for over a decade, other countries are also quickly realizing the value of sprayer drones for high-value, low-acre crops such as grapes. Drones are more efficient than traditional hand-spraying and can easily supplement ground-based spraying vehicles as well. They can be used to apply pesticide or fertilizer to a smaller, targeted area as well, which a farmer can map out for the drone utilizing the data collected by NDVI cameras. Spraying drones can cover about four to five acres of farm area in one hour.
Drones for Wine Marketing
And now comes our favorite part, and something which we believe the Women Who Drone community can start with right off the bat: using drone photos and videos for vineyard marketing. Drone footage is the perfect tool to show the vast expanses and the sweeping views of the vineyards from a unique vantage point. This out-of-the-box perspective is a great asset for any promotional material. Vineyards can use it to create marketing videos, promote wine tours, or capture the entire winemaking process – right from the planting of the first seed to the harvesting and fermentation.
Now, while these are some of the most effective ways in which vineyards are using drones, the applications of our flying machines do not end here. Farmers are using drones for security and surveillance purposes, and even to deter incoming birds that are known to cost some $80 million in crop damages in the state of Washington alone. Moreover, farm owners can leverage drones to map land contours for drainage.
Whatever be the case, it’s safe to say drones are helping vineyards to improve both their bottom lines as well as the ‘drink of the Gods’!
Ishveena Singh is a versatile journalist and writer with a passion for drones and location technologies. She has been named as one of the 50 Rising Stars of the geospatial industry for the year 2021.
In the last 13 years, Ishveena has worked with both mainstream media organizations (Miami Herald International, Times of India, Microsoft MSN) and dedicated geospatial technology media (Geospatial World, Geoawesomeness). With a deep understanding of content marketing and social media, Ishveena also helps private companies (DJI, Aerodyne Group, Terra Drone Corporation) to generate qualified leads through useful and timely content.