Advantages of Agricultural Drones Compared with Aircraft Spraying

Precision spraying operation

Small fixed wings and small helicopters used in agriculture have high flight speed and high flight altitude during spraying, which may lead to serious spray drift. The Agras T10 and Agras T30 can hover for a more targeted high-precision spraying, with lower operating altitude (usually 4.9 - 11.4 ft above the crop surface), slower flight speed (about 9 - 22 ft/s), and more dynamic control of sprinkler and flow velocity to prevent drift.

Mounting multi-spectral lens on the agricultural drone (Phantom 4 Multispectral) can recognize the collection and supervision of farmland operation information, generate agricultural prescription maps according to the growth of crops, and guide the operation of the Agras T10 and Agras T30. When spraying pesticides with the Agras T10 and Agras T30, it only aims at the plots that need to be sprayed, therefore it will further reduce the impact on the environment.

In terms of precision spraying, the agricultural drone has garnered attention in addressing the spread of Cirsium arvense in recent years. Cirsium arvense, also known as a creeping thistle, is a malignant weed, widely distributed in farmland and pasture, competing with crops for water, nutrients and minerals. Its root buds produce acids that make the soil unsuitable for the growth of some crops. As a result, crop yields are reduced, causing economic losses to farmers and farm owners.

Reduced risk of operators

The typical agricultural operation scenarios of helicopters and fixed-wing aircrafts are in mountainous operations and large-scaled farmland operations. Mountainous operations require pilots to fly manually and constantly ascend and descend to ensure effective spraying. In large-scaled farmland operations, the aircraft needs to work at an altitude close to 5 m of the crop. In this process, many pilots cannot successfully level the aircraft after flying close to the ground, increasing the likelihood of a crash. A study from the United States National Transportation Safety Board found that in 2013 there were 78 agricultural aircraft accidents, of which nine were fatal, claiming the lives of 10 people.

Decreased environmental pollution

Traditional aircrafts are generally a fuel power source, while drones use lithium batteries. Electric energy is cleaner and can effectively save energy and reduce emissions.

Helicopter propellers produce sound as high as 110 decibels, 1.5 times what the human body can tolerate, while drone operations reduce noise decibels. When the drone works away from the crowd and operators, its low noise will not cause damage to the human body.

Cost effectiveness

The purchase and maintenance costs of a traditional aircraft is high. The purchase cost of an aircraft is not only hundreds or even thousands of times that of agricultural drones, it is more expensive to use as well. Aircrafts require a number of crew members to be on standby on the ground to do a series of maintenance before takeoff. At the same time, due to the need to apply for specific operational airspace, the cost of aircraft transfer is also relatively high in some countries and regions.

Take the global best-selling helicopter Single Squirrel AS350 as an example. The price of the model is about 3.6 million euros, the charge capacity is 600 kg, the length of the spray rod is 10 meters, the operating parameters are about 40 m/s, the height is 30 m, the spray amplitude is 50 m, the working efficiency is 197 acres / mission, and each sortie takes 25 minutes. The aircraft is flown by
two pilots and at least four ground crew members are responsible for ground maintenance.

By contrast, the cost of purchasing an agricultural drone is relatively low, with a price of no more than 30,000 dollars for an agricultural drone, which farmers can afford. Purchasing the professional plant protection services provided by the plant protection team will not cause a great economic burden. The repair and maintenance of agricultural drones are relatively simple, the replacement of high-consumption parts such as blades can be completed by the operator, and more complex repairs are usually done at the agent maintenance points
near the operation area. The maintenance of drones can be done simply at the end of each operation, or uniformly at the end of the entire operation season.