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Drone Spraying - Should You DIY?

Drones have become a prominent part of agriculture in many parts of the world, with 40% of Japan's rice crop being sprayed by drones and nearly 30% of all agricultural spraying in South Korea being done by drones. In the U.S., we're seeing that interest in drone applications is steadily on the rise.

Drone spraying offers many advantages over other methods, especially in certain conditions and terrain. A recent Auburn University article discusses findings by researcher Steve Li. Li said, "Drones allow us to spray a crop when the field is too wet after rains, they can spray small, odd shaped fields better than airplanes and ground sprayers, they handle hilly terrain and terraces very well, and they use much less fuel than ground sprayers and airplanes."

These advantages have generated interest in drone applications among many farmers here in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Some farmers have even explored the possibility of acquiring drones and operating them themselves on their own acreage. But is a DIY approach to drone applications a good idea?

An Ohio State University Extension article discusses the many variables that must be managed properly for effective drone applications. For example, flight altitude must be chosen carefully as it affects both the swath width and canopy coverage (droplets per square inch). Minor changes can have significant and unintended consequences, which reduces the efficacy and efficiency of drone spraying.

A Maryland Agronomy News article noted that high humidity – something we know a thing or two about here in the Mid-Atlantic – can make it difficult to determine proper application methods. Humidity also makes it challenging to evaluate results. Effective drone spraying requires real-time adjustments to current humidity levels.

Finally, FAA compliance is another challenge for DIY drone sprayers. There are limitations on when spraying can be done, especially if your farm is in a restricted air space. Regulations also require that each drone pilot only manage one drone at a time, and a visual observer must also participate when spraying. This makes it more difficult to DIY in a way that is both time and cost efficient. Furthermore, failure to comply with FAA regulations could lead to hefty fines.

For all of these reasons, drone applications are often best left to experts who specialize in agricultural drone spraying. These companies are not only fully FAA-compliant, they know how to evaluate current conditions and terrain to make real-time adjustments to drone settings for optimal results.

Tidewater Seed has partnered with Scout Applicators to offer this service to our clients. If you're interested in exploring the benefits of drone spraying for your farm, please contact your local rep.


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