Students at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras developed a Smart Agricopter for spraying.
The Smart Agricopter spraying drone is to be an alternative to manual spraying of pesticides and can be used to monitor crop health with the help of a camera.
According to the Indian Centre for Science and Environment each year around 10,000 farmers die in India from harmful effects of chemicals in pesticides. Manual spraying also results in a massive overuse of chemicals.
Rishabh Verma is one of the aerospace engineering students who developed the Smart Agricopter. “Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and there is a desperate need to change farming techniques. We are automating a multi-billion dollar manual pesticide spraying industry using cutting edge drone technology,” Verma said.
The current version of the Smart Agricopter is a hexacopter drone with the capacity to carry 15 liters of pesticide. According to the students, it can spray pesticides 10 times faster and with 100% accuracy at the same cost as manual spraying.
Costing at USD 7.500 (INR 510,000) per unit, the Agricopter comes with a multispectral camera which provides smart analysis of crop health and ensures that the entire spraying process is completely autonomous and that the farmer is never exposed to the pesticide.
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According to Rishabh Verma, who comes from an agricultural family from Rajasthan, the students talked to farmers and learned that farmers are lacking knowledge of how to safely apply pesticides and of current industry developments.
“After doing some initial research with farmers, farm-based organisations, pesticide sellers and associations, we decided to start developing our own spraying drone. First we have to make farmers aware of the importance of using a drone for spraying and the benefits it has on their health,” Verma said.
The Smart Agricopter will be cheaper than other agricultural drones, said Verma.
“Since we developed each part and software used in the drone ourselves, the cost, therefore, could be reduced. We aim to provide it on service-basis for USD $ 25 (INR 350) per acre.”
The drone will initially become available in the farmlands of Chennai, followed by Pune and Maharashtra. “A trained operator can operate 4 to 5 drones simultaneously with a single remote control,” Verma said.
The team of students earlier received a USD 15,000 (INR 1 million) funding after their product won the Indian Innovation Growth Programme (IIGP 2.0) University Challenge held at IIT Bombay in June 2019.