Chinese drone manufacturer DJI is introducing a spraying model to North America, as it foresees a day when farmers use swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to control weeds, diseases and other pests.
The Agras MG-1 is an octocopter capable of carrying 2.5 gallons and covering 7 to 10 acres per hour, explains DJI’s Jan Gasparic in this video filmed at the 2016 Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa.
The MG-1 was initially designed for spraying crops on terraces in China, where farmers still apply pesticides by hand, he says.
“Every year we have a lot of deaths in China from contact poisoning. This is something the MG-1 is specifically designed to address, where there really wasn’t an alternative other than spraying by hand,” he explains.
As for North American agriculture, spraying drones are currently being used in high-value applications in orchards and vineyards. However, Gasparic says DJI is working on automating drone fleets to apply chemicals to broadacre crops.
“Absolutely,” he says. “Down the road, a lot of these machines are going to speak to one another…we’re not quite there yet, but this is essentially the overall trajectory of this technology.”
Originally from Slovenia, Gasparic now lives in Hong Kong and looks after strategic partnerships and business development for DJI. The details of automated docking, charging and refilling can be addressed by engineers, he says, so DJI is also focusing on creating partnerships with people involved in the practical application of the technology.
“This isn’t something we can do by ourselves. We’re actively engaging the industry, speaking with different partners and trying to find ways where we can really offer the best solution to farmers.”
Watch and read more from the 2016 Farm Progress Show here.