Business

NTT to launch trial of farming support service with drones and AI tech in Fukushima

Kyodo

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT) said Thursday it will launch a trial for a farming support service using drones and artificial intelligence technology, with a goal of commercializing the service in Japan and other Asian countries.

The new system, which connects drones with GPS satellites, is anticipated to help the farm industry in the nation amid a serious labor shortage. NTT aims to raise crop output by up to 30 percent through the new service.

The telecommunications giant will conduct the trial service on 8 hectares of a rice field in Fukushima Prefecture from later this month to March 2021. It aims to launch the service on a commercial basis in Japan in two years.

Four camera-equipped drones linked with Michibiki quasi-zenith satellites will fly over the farmland to take images of rice plants. The system will then use AI to analyze the images together with other data, including temperatures, to suggest the best time to add fertilizer.

While the drones will also spray pesticides more effectively by detecting insects with the cameras, NTT said it is trying to improve the system so it can provide information about the timing for aerial pesticide spraying.

Climate change is believed to be playing a role in bringing new types of insects to farmland, making it difficult to protect crops. It is also making it harder to determine the best time to add fertilizer, NTT said.