AeroSeeder drone designed to speed the seeding of cover crops
We've already heard about drones that spray crops with herbicides and fertilizers. The AeroSeeder is a bit different, however, in that (as you might have guessed) it disperses seeds that might otherwise be difficult to plant.
Developed by an Iowa-based startup of the same name, the AeroSeeder is an octocopter which is equipped with a sack that can carry up to 40 lb (18 kg) of seeds. Guided by GPS and altitude-holding/terrain-following sensors, it autonomously flies along a preprogrammed flight path at up to 22 mph (35 km/h). As it does so, it releases the seeds onto the field below – the seeding rate is adjustable.
Instead of planting the main crop, however, the AeroSeeder is designed to plant what are known as cover crops. These are low-growing plants that are added to the main crop, once it's become established. Among other things, these plants help minimize erosion, hold water in the soil, smother weeds, and improve soil quality.
And while cover crops can be planted by ground-based machinery, doing so is often a tricky business, as farmers don't want to damage the main crop by running over it. Utilizing crop-dusting airplanes is an often-used alternative, although farmers will often have to wait a long time before a pilot can schedule them in.
By contrast, the AeroSeeder can be used by the farmer themselves, reportedly seeding up to 100 acres (40.5 hectares) within one 8-hour period. Additionally, when the drone runs out of seeds or needs a battery-recharge, it automatically flies back to its take-off point. Once it's charged and/or seeded-up, it returns to the point in the field where it left off.
We're told that the drone should be commercially available within the next one to two months, priced in the range of US$10,000 to $11,000. In the meantime, it can be seen in action, in the video below.