With the 25kg weight limit set by regulators, drone manufacturers work within tight boundaries.
Walking into the 2019 German Agritechnica show, our drone correspondent said: “Drones in agriculture will really take off when John Deere gets involved.” Minutes later we were staring up at a 9.2m diameter drone on the company’s stand, but we haven’t heard about this Volodrone since.
In the intervening two years, however, the spray drone market has taken off – but not thanks to the multinational manufacturer; it’s been more down to the introduction of rules and regulations permitting spraying from drones – particularly in the USA.
Drones are now widely used in agriculture. But, right now, it’s mainly for scouting crops with special cameras to, for example, detect areas of disease in crops, or to map the biomass and check for any variances across a field. There’s a wide choice of drones to do this scanning work. But, for special applications, such as fertilising and spraying, the range of drones on offer to farmers is quite limited.
There are currently just eleven models registered in Future Farming’s drone buying guide. The technology, however, hasn’t actually changed much in the past couple of years. Admittedly drones have become a bit more sophisticated and autonomous software has improved, but fundamentally they are the same drones with a spray system integrated onto existing technology.
There are some interesting developments on the way, but with the 25kg weight limit set by most regulators, the challengers are working within some tight boundaries. Things will change, probably quite rapidly, but in the meantime we‘re still waiting to see when John Deere takes to the air.