Drones for Aerial Agricultural Applications
Agricultural applications, such as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers, are a routine aspect of farm life, as some crops require these additions to thrive, as well as to protect against pests. Application methods have not changed drastically over the years as some choose to use a manual sprayer attached to a backpack, tractors equipped with sprayers or the aerial plane spray method. All have their advantages and limitations. Entering the market now is a different way of spraying for pesticides using a newer technology. Some are embracing it, while others are skeptical of its place in the market.
UAVs or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, better known as drones, are entering the market as an alternative to existing spraying methods. In Canada, the first Transport Canada permit has been approved for a company called Roga Drone for the operation of a UAV for aerial application. While regular use of this technology may seem far-off, the reality is that UAVs are becoming increasingly popular, and this kind of innovation cannot be ignored in an industry changing as rapidly as agriculture.
Drones offer some advantages, such as lower operating costs, and offer a more precise and controlled method of application. According to a Western Producer article entitled “The Drones are Coming to Spray your Crops,” drone applicators hover three feet above the crops, with a beam of 16.5 feet covering 40-50 acres an hour. This is a much closer application than that of traditional biplane spraying; however, plane application has the ability cover a larger area in a short amount of time. Another advantage of the drone systems is that they use low volumes of product. This means that those farms seeking lower input costs will benefit from the drone applications.
While drones will not be able to handle the volume of product that traditional planes and sprayers can, they will offer a more affordable option for those who wish to spray large areas but may not need a system as substantial as biplane spraying. Drones will also be a viable option for those who have field conditions that prevent them from driving traditional sprayers on the ground. Drones can also offer unique types of information and will bolster precision ag systems by producing data such as aerial photographs.
Whether you are a fan of drones or not, it is important to recognize they are an innovative and new way of spraying. While they may not replace traditional methods of spraying, having options is important in agriculture and this technology may be a more viable option for many in the future.
Brooke Wareing is Communications Intern for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXFM Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston.