Drones spraying and seeding paddocks are set to become a more familiar sight if the response two companies received at AgSmart is anything to go by.
Advanced Aerial Solutions and XAG were among the more than 100 exhibitors showcasing agtech at the inuagural expo in Tamworth last week.
According to Advanced Aerial Solutions and UAV Training Australia chief pilot and CEO Wayne Condon, 60 to 70 per cent of the inquiries they had received were for conducting contract spraying jobs.
He said they had been approached by cattle producers wanting to get pasture seeding done and farmers wanting to spray corn crops infested with fall armyworm.
Advanced Aerial Solutions conducts aerial mapping, thermal imaging and spraying for clients including HQPlantations and the Queensland government.
Through its training arm, UAV Training Australia, the company also facilitates drone licencing with the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority.
The company uses drones from manufacturer DJI including its agricultural offering, the DJI Agras T30.
The Agras T30 can be fitted with a 30 litre spray unit or 40kg granular seeding system.
It is a multi-rotor hexa-copter with a total weight of just under 80kg and each engine has a lift capacity of 20kg.
The drone has a span of just under 3.8 metres, a 360-degree ground radar system and RTK accuracy of 2cm.
It can cover up to eight metres per second, can seed one hectare in about 10 minutes and has a flight time of 20 minutes.
Broad spraying or spot spraying are both possible, however a smaller multi-spectral drone is used to survey the area and then this data is supplied to the larger drone to conduct the job.
Mr Condon said the litres per hectare required varied greatly depending on the industry, with horticulture jobs using about 8L/ha while forestry required 160L/ha.
"You can actually swarm these drones, so you can have three drones flying in sync at the one time, covering large broad areas off the one flight control, controlled by one pilot," Mr Condon said.
"At 3m above a canopy it will give you a 9m swath, so with three drones we're covering almost 30m of swath spray off one pilot, which is bigger than most of your standard tractor pull systems.
"The big advantage of that is it doesn't leave a land-based footprint, it's in the air."
Remote agricultural pilot system manufacturer XAG received similar inquires on its stand.
XAG Australia sales and marketing director Charles Chow said they had a great response from farmers and were putting them in touch with XAG's network of contractors.
The company's drones are used for a variety of jobs from rehabilitation works, aquatic weed management and agricultural chemical applications.
At AgSmart XAG was showcasing its V40 bi-copter, which can be used for spraying and granular seeding.
The V40 holds 16L of liquid or 20L of granular product and can fly for 15 to 20 minutes with a full payload.
When spraying it has a maximum swath of 10m and a maximum flow rate of 10L/m.
Broad spraying and spot spraying can be done with the same drone and up to five drones can be swarmed at once.
It also has RTK accuracy of 2cm, an upward facing radar for flying under netting and a peristaltic pump to prevent blockages.
Mr Chow said the maximum area the bi-copter could cover was about 18ha per hour but realistically under Australian application rates coverage was about 10ha/h.
Another key feature of the V40 is its modular design.
Replacing parts is as simple as removing the part with screws, scanning a QR code and ordering the required item online.
Mr Condon said many of the conversations he'd had during the two-day event had been centred around educating farmers about the different chemical and certification approvals required to operate agricultural drones.
While drones could be flown autonomously, he said 90 per cent of spray approvals stated the drones had to be operated manually.
"What a lot of people in agriculture don't realise is because it's in the air, you need all your airborne spraying approvals, so it's like flying a helicopter," he said.
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