According to Latvian entrepreneur Elviss Straupenieks, it costs about US$65,000 a year to pesticide-spray an average-size vineyard using a helicopter. His alternative? Well, he claims that his company's AirBoard Agro drone can do it for half as much – plus it offers a few other advantages.
Although we have seen crop-spraying drones before, the electric Agro is reportedly able to cover much more ground per charge. This is said to be due to its in-house-designed battery, along with its power-saving speed control systems – one charge is good for a claimed 15 minutes of flight time, or coverage of about 2 acres (0.8 hectares).
Additionally, the drone is capable of carrying more pesticide than most others. It has a capacity of 60 liters (15.8 US gal), as opposed to the more typical 10 to 15 liters.
Flying over vineyards autonomously, the Agro uses downward-facing radar to maintain a constant height above the plants – even on sloping hillsides. This reportedly allows for much more precise application of pesticide than is possible using a higher-flying helicopter. As a result, less pesticide needs to be applied, which is both cost-effective and (relatively) better for the environment.
Straupenieks tells us that AirBoard has started deploying its drones in European vineyards this year, as a pay-per-use service. And while manual spraying by ground-based workers is certainly another alternative to helicopters, Elviss says that his product is much faster, and minimizes laborers' exposure to hazardous chemicals.
The Agro can be seen in action, in the following video.
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