Drones

DJI's agriculture drone takes to the air down on the farm

DJI's agriculture drone takes ...
DJI's MG-1 system uses a wave radar to zoom over crops at a consistent altitude
DJI's MG-1 system uses a wave radar to zoom over crops at a consistent altitude
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Under the drone's body is a tank for carrying chemicals, which are fed through four downward facing nozzles via a pressure sprayer system
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Under the drone's body is a tank for carrying chemicals, which are fed through four downward facing nozzles via a pressure sprayer system
DJI's MG-1 system uses a wave radar to zoom over crops at a consistent altitude
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DJI's MG-1 system uses a wave radar to zoom over crops at a consistent altitude
DJI's MG-1 is an eight-rotor drone that is water, dust and corrosion-resistant
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DJI's MG-1 is an eight-rotor drone that is water, dust and corrosion-resistant

They may not capture the imagination in the same way as say, drones that deliver items in 30 minutes or shoot stunning 4K video, but drones stand to have a big impact on agriculture. Crop dusting and seeding has been carried out by aircraft for more than a century, but we are starting to see their autonomous and agile younger cousins emerge as highly suitable tools for the job. This is of course not lost on the world's biggest drone maker DJI, which has just a launched a drone for farmers that can be programmed to cover acres of farmland in pesticides every hour.

DJI's MG-1 is an eight-rotor drone that is water-, dust- and corrosion-resistant and can carry a payload of up to 10 kg (22 lb). It is billed as a safer and more efficient approach to crop-dusting, with DJI claiming it can cover seven to 10 acres (2.8 to 4 ha) of plantation every hour with 40 times the efficiency of manual spraying.

Under the drone's body is a tank for carrying chemicals, which are fed through four downward-facing nozzles via a pressure sprayer system. The system uses a wave radar to zoom over the crops at a consistent altitude so as to better facilitate an even spray. The MG-1 can be flown in automatic, semi-automatic and manual modes and the spray speed can be adjusted to accomodate various chemicals.

Under the drone's body is a tank for carrying chemicals, which are fed through four downward facing nozzles via a pressure sprayer system
Under the drone's body is a tank for carrying chemicals, which are fed through four downward facing nozzles via a pressure sprayer system

The Wall Street Journal reports that the tank can hold 2.6 gal (10 L) of chemicals and the drone can fly for about 12 minutes at a time. This is a far cry from the hundreds of gallons and lengthy flight times of conventional crop-dusting planes, so the MG-1 mightn't be suitable for famers operating in flat, wide-open areas with much ground to cover.

But where they could prove useful is in mountainous farming regions with more complex terrain where their agility can come into play, such as Japan where unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been used for crop-dusting for more than two decades. A recent study where researchers investigated the use of similar systems in the Napa Valley also turned up some promising results. This lead the Federal Aviation Administration to earlier this year clear the unmanned helicopter in question for use in spite of strict drone laws, so an MG-1 zipping around North American farms sometime in the near future isn't entirely out of the question.

The MG-1 will reportedly carry a price tag of US$15,000 and is available for preorder in China now, with South Korea and then other markets to follow.

Source: DJI via Wall Street Journal

6 comments
Deres
Interesting, but the lack of autonomy means that the farmer will need to go to each field to treat it anyway. I think that what the farmer would need would be a drone capable og going itself to the field directly fron the farm, thus with a bigger autonomy, some ting like half an hour. This may be posible with a piston engine. Moreover, a very usefull capability would be autonomous refuelling ... With such a capacity, the drone would be capable of dusting several fields one after the other by getting back to base and refueling while the farmer is working elsewhere. At the same time, having an onboard camera to survey all the fields would be a great addition (the surface and some close shots), thus gaining time on two activities at a time for the farmer (dusting and surveying fields).
Mel Tisdale
Where I live the farmers usually have someone on guard to halt the tractor should a nozzle get bunged up. With this system the farmer might have to wait for the bald patches to become visible before they know of it happening, or rather that it has happened.
Bob Flint
Batteries and flight time will greatly limit the effectiveness of this concept
greenace92
$15,000.00!!! Ridiculous steal! Although, 22lbs and wave radar plus the non-corrosive. Still, what a business!
darkstar01
Pardon the pun, but I hope this doesn't "get off the ground" there are entirely too many pesticides in our food to begin with. If they stopped using GMO seeds they wouldn't need pesticides!!! stop introducing junk DNA into humans via food. One day they will find a connection with mutations and junk DNA from genetically modified organisms.
Bob
The pesticides would have to be quite potent to have any coverage. How will you know that no one is in the spray area? I also have had the problem of birds attacking my quad-copter that I use to photograph my farm. Unexpected winds and thermals have caused control problems as well. If you have direct control and a very difficult area to spray, it could work well but large areas and unattended spraying will cause many possible problems.