Drones for Weed Control and Planting

In August 22, 2017

When I think of applications utilizing drones for forest management I normally think of remote sensing. However, there are a few businesses that are making use of them for weed control and planting.

DroneSeed is one of these companies that is currently conducting herbicide applications and is working on systems to precisely deliver seed to forest sites. In the spring this year they received US FAA approval to use “drone swarms to deliver agricultural payloads (fertilizers, herbicides, and water).” The use of a swarm of drones will facilitate applications on larger areas.

Drones are already widely used to accurately map the locations of weed species. These maps can then be utilized to develop a treatment plan to efficiently target each species with herbicide delivered by a drone. Spot treatments of individual plants should be possible. This will minimize herbicide use and reduce the impact on non-target species.

Using a drone to conduct herbicide treatments on forestlands offers significant advantages over the use of manned aircraft and ground crews on foot equipped with backpack sprayers:

Manned Aircraft

  • Treatment areas must be large to be cost effective.
  • Spot treatments are not possible.
  • Are not welcome by many neighbors.
  • Potential for the “drift” of the herbicide outside the treatment area. Drones can safely operate at lower altitudes, which minimizes “drift”.

Ground Crews

  • Walking over uneven terrain with a heavy backpack exposes workers to the potential for injury from slips and trips.
  • It can be difficult to get enough personnel to conduct the treatments during the optimal season.
  • Is usually the highest cost treatment method.
  • Requires good access.

Flightworks is another business that provides aerial spraying services in New Zealand. In addition, they provide aerial mapping, imagery analysis and project monitoring. I would recommend the articles on their website as a source of great information regarding the use of drones for herbicide treatments.

In 2015 DJI introduced a purpose built drone (the Agras MG-1) for herbicide applications in agriculture. The drone can has a 10-litre tank and comes fully equipped to conduct spray operations right out of the box. It comes with radar to allow it to maintain a precise altitude above the treatment area. This video by DJI is illustrates a good business case for the use of drones in agriculture for herbicide delivery: https://youtu.be/P2YPG8PO9JU

I expect that it will be agriculture that we can look to for advances in the use of drones for herbicide applications. Within a very short time the use of them will become commonplace in the forest industry!

Brian Saunders
White Raven Innovations Limited
Cell: 250 802 6115
Email: BrianSaunders.WRI@gmail.com
Website: http://www.tablet-ex-gear.com/
Skype: BrianSaunders.WRI
Twitter: @tabletEXgear