Good Fruit Grower

July 1

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 31

24 JULY 2015 GOOD FRUIT GROWER F ruit growers and vineyard own- ers who have trees and vines on diffi cult terrain may soon have access to a new tool to treat them with fertilizers or chemical protection materials. On May 6, the Federal Aviation Administration gave permission to the Yamaha Corporation of America to use its RMAX unmanned helicopter—a drone—in commercial applications in agriculture. Steve Markofski, communications spokesperson for Yamaha, based in California, said the company would not likely sell the machines but would lease them, and he expected the lessees would be companies that provide services to growers and would have people trained in the operation of the robots. The machine has been tested for three years in Napa Valley vineyards by researchers at the University of California, Davis. It is also being tested at Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon, University of California, Berkeley, and Virginia Tech. The testing was to meet the require- ments of the FAA, not to study feasibility. This technology—and the RMAX specif- ically—has been at work in Japan since 1997. There are 2,400 RMAX working in Japan and another 200 in other countries. In Japan, the RMAX sprays pesticides and fertilizer on 2.4 million acres of rice each year—about 40 percent of that nation's rice acreage—and other crops as well, Markofski said. Rice is grown in fi elds saturated with water, where ground application is more diffi cult. And, Markofski said, the RMAX could easily spray grape vineyards on steep hillsides and could make timely applications of fungicides and growth regulators in orchards with diffi cult ter- rain or during times of excessive rainfall and soggy ground. In Japan, he said, fi elds are often small and irregular in shape, so application work is often done by hand by workers on foot. Japan's population is aging even more rapidly than is the U.S. population, so a dwindling number of people want to do such work. While a pilot does not ride in the RMAX, it is not correct to say it is unpiloted. The RMAX is remotely piloted by a person on the ground, within line of sight of the heli- copter and within a quarter mile, and the pilot moves the aircraft by remote control using a 72 MHz transmitter. "What makes our machine unique is it is the fi rst one weighing more than 55 pounds to receive permission from FAA," Markofski said. That means it is capable of performing heavier work than mere observation and monitoring using cameras, which some smaller unmanned aerial vehicles have won FAA approval to do. The RMAX is described in detail on the company website, www. It is a small helicopter, with a single large rotor (about ten feet across) on top and a smaller rotor on the tail. It weighs 207 pounds and can carry a maximum Drone ready for WORK IN FRUIT FAA approved Yamaha's remote-controlled copter for agricultural use. by Richard Lehnert COURTESY YAMAHA The RMAX unmanned helicopter must be operated within line of sight of the pilot, who uses a remote control using a 72 MHz transmitter.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Good Fruit Grower - July 1