ADAMA and Tactical Robotics will work together to develop the Ag-Cormorant, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for aerial spraying that can carry an effective payload of more than 500 kg.
Tactical Robotics is a Israeli aerospace company. ADAMA specialises in crop protection. Tactical Robotics has developed the Cormorant, a multi-role, compact, high payload, unmanned Vertical-Take-Off-and-Landing (VTOL) aircraft. Now, the 2 companies have started working together in order to create a version of this unmanned helicopter for agricultural use such as aerial spraying.
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The Ag-Cormorant would solve several problems, says Tactical Robotics. “First, the world is facing a growing shortage of pilots that is also affecting the availability of Ag pilots. The agricultural industry has an aging pilot workforce and not enough young pilots to replace them. Second, increasing restrictions are being placed on aerial application due to the drift of material onto adjacent fields and populated areas, which is far less tolerated today than in the past.”
That’s where the use of small, unmanned helicopters comes in, says the company. These have been used since their introduction in Japan in the 1990‘s; more than 2,000 of them – built by Yamaha, Fuji and other manufacturers – have been sold, predominantly in Japan and in Korea, according to the Israeli manufacturer.
“These small helicopters however cannot replace traditional aerial application aircraft due to their limited payload capacity – between 20-30 kg of material – which is sufficient only for small fields. The average farm size in Japan is 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres), compared to 441 acres in the US.”
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The ideal solution, says Tactical Robotics, would be a compact aircraft that can carry at least 500 kg of material but would still be able to perform precision aerial application, a function that virtually necessitates a VTOL (Vertical Take-Off) platform. But this aircraft should also be transportable by road to the area to be treated and then deployed within the perimeter of that area, as a pre-arranged closed airspace.
“This would enable the entire process to take place at the convenience of the operator without the need to arrange clearance for every sortie, alongside of a requirement to close roads or follow a lengthy circuitous flight path in order to bypass inhabited areas.”
That’s where the Cormorant comes in: “It is a compact, VTOL aircraft that can be transported by truck, deployed within the perimeter of the area to be treated and has a payload capability of 500 kg. In addition, it is an aircraft with unique aerodynamic characteristics that generate groundbreaking advances by providing precise and efficient application while at the same time eliminating drift altogether.” The UAV can vary its application speed from runs at up to 100 knots down to very slow flight or hover.
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With a relatively low acoustic signature and 24/7 flying capabilities it will significantly increase the available window for application, according to ADAMA. “The Ag-Cormorant’s ability to adjust flight height and speed according to the mission in combination with unique aerodynamic properties enables better canopy penetration, drift reduction and variable rate application capabilities.”
Tactical Robotics Cormorant
According to the manufacturer, the Cormorant is designed to the same FAA standards that are used for manned helicopters and it relies on the most advanced and reliable sensors and flight control systems available.The Cormorant prototype has successfully completed more than 250 flights and is currently flying fully autonomously. The UAV is powered by a 985 hp Single Turbomeca Arriel 2N helicopter engine. It can reach a maximum speed of 180 km/h and can stay in the air for 2,6 hours (with a payload of 300 kg). Its empty weight is 918 kg, the maximum total weight is 1,682 kg.
The Cormorant is equipped with internal rotors that allow it to fly in obstructed airspace (electrical wires, trees, poles) without the risk of rotor blade strikes. Other advantages of the Cormorant are, according to its manufacturer: