UAS Agriculture

Using UASs in Agriculture

UAS spraying is effective tool for applying pesticides on crops. UASs especially shine when fields are flooded with water, making entry of motorized vehicle to the field impractical or when treating crops that grow in steep hills.

UAS pesticide spraying is becoming increasingly available for specialty crops and row-crop production. Recently, UAS manufacturers such as DJI have started offering high payload rotor UASs that include sprayers.

UAS Spraying Crops

Spraying with UAS is a unique practice since it is conducted autonomously. UAS sprayers are equipped with almost all the parts of any other sprayer: a tank, a pump to push liquid through the hoses to the nozzles, filters and a pressure gauge. But there are limitations, mostly on the size of these components because of the power required to keep the UAS sprayer in flight mode for a reasonable time.

UAS carry unique characteristics when applying liquid products. First, the application is different from ground-based machines but not the same as typical aerial applications completed with helicopters or crop dusters. These small UAS are typically flown 3 to 10 feet above the crop or target area with their rotors creating turbulence or what we call vortices. While the turbulence created by the rotors can help spray droplets penetrate into a crop canopy and provide good coverage on the top and bottom of leaves, these vortices cause drift concerns. Research is being conducted to determine spray deposition, coverage and drift from UAS sprayers in comparison to other methods used for pesticide application. Unique features for UAS sprayers include vertical or altitude adjustments for topography or height, autonomous swath control, and safety.

In general, UAS capable of applying products to row-crops will have 4 to 5-gallon tanks with a spray width between ranging 10 and 15 feet. The application rate will be 1 to 2 gallons per acre or set in accordance with product labels. Today, multi-rotor UAS have a flight time of around 15 – 20 minutes allowing a tank to be dispersed before needing to land to refill plus change out batteries for the next flight. Most manufacturers provide estimates on application rates in minutes per acre with most UAS spraying an acre within 3 to 4 minutes.

Yamaha RMAX UAS Drone

UAS can be used to clean up fields, spray drowned out spots, control resistant weed escapes, or other small areas within a field versus using a high-clearance sprayer.

Today, the mapping process is more accurate and efficient given the development of AI representing an essential step forward in technology.

Companies developing and testing these systems have been successful in applying to the FAA for an exemption under Section 333 resulting in the FAA potentially issuing a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA for Certificate of Authorization) to facilitate testing in the United States.

Farmers and ranchers can already use UAS to spray crops but at a minimum, you will need following three licenses to operate:

  1. Private Pesticide Applicator License
  2. Part 107 Certificate from the FAA
  3. Part 137 Certificate from the FAA

Must also Register UAV with the FAA

  • Small to Medium UAS– Registering any UAS between 0.55 and 55 pounds is rather quick and painless. Click HERE for an article explaining the registration process in greater detail.
  • Large UAVs– Registering a UAS larger than 55 pounds with the FAA is complicated and time consuming. A large UAV must be registered under Rule 47.

Large UAVs in the Marketplace

  1. Yamaha RMAX and FAZER
    • 2 o4 4 stroke gas engine, depending on the model
    • 6.3, 4.2, or 8.5 on-board storage (2 tanks) depending upon model
    • 0.3 to 0.5 pgm discharge rate
    • Granular material application option
    • Legal in CA to apply crop protection products.
  2. DJI AGRASMG
    • Electric motor with 8 rotors
    • 2.6 gallon storage tank
    • Spray with of 4 – 6 meters
    • 4 nozzle boom
  3. Hylio AgroUAV
    • Electric motor with 8 rotors
    • 4.5 gallon storage tank
    • 1 gpm discharge rate
    • 15 foot spray width
    • 6 nozzle boom

While there is still work on application quality, spray UAVs provide unique capabilities over manned aircraft and ground spraying equipment. To learn how we can help you register your UAS then contact the Dunaway Law Group at 623-252-6884 or message us HERE.