Move over dogs – drones are a farmer’s new best friend! In just a few years there’s been a huge rise in the use of drones in agriculture. Their popularity is set to soar globally as countries grant operators permission to also apply crop protection products, writes Mick Roberts in an article published by Future Farming.
Roberts writes that it makes sense to use drones for spray applications – they can operate over sodden fields and tall crops where no machine could normally move, fly quickly to exact locations to treat target areas precisely, as well as be pre-programmed to navigate their own way around.
Recent equipment introductions, and regulation changes in particular, look likely to see aerial applications by UAVs to increase substantially and quickly around the globe.
In the USA sales are set to rise by a third in a year – probably thanks to new regulations that now permit drone applications. And, with John Deere showing its developments at the Agritechnica Show in 2019, it looks like drone spraying is moving into the mainstream.
In countries with advanced agriculture, aerial spraying by drone completes the precision farming virtuous circle. This begins with remote crop scouting targeting treatment areas that are followed by applications on a pre-programmed route. And this, can not only be achieved remotely, but also truly autonomously.
Drone spray applications also provide massive benefits for farmers in countries with developing agriculture. Indeed, in countries like China and India, they have essentially enabled farmers to leap from hand-held applicators, skipping vehicle-mounted boomed machines, and going straight to drones.
At the same time drones improve application timeliness, reduce the need for skilled labour and cut hand-held sprayer operators’ exposure to harmful pesticides.
Picture: John Deere revealed the giant VoloDrone at the Agritechnica Show in Hannover, last autumn. A joint development with Volocopter, it is 9.2m wide, has 18 rotors, a fully electric drive and is powered by lithium-ion batteries, which provide a flight time of about 30 minutes on one charge. Like smaller drones, it can be remotely or automatically operated and is able to follow a pre-programmed route.