Spraying drone to drop off plant protection products in a liquid, solid or powder form.
EbreDrone is a drone company specialized in Industry Inspections and Precision Farming located in the southern Catalonia region of Ebro Delta. The main economy driver is agriculture due to the extension of rice fields (20k HA).
Problem addressed: every rice campaign rice growers apply big amounts of grow protection products in different stages of the vegetative cycle. Most of the treatments use to be applied with traditional machinery and these heavy vehicles breakdown the soil and lower the overall production. When exceptionally allowed aerial applications are done by planes or copters, there are many toxicity risks for biodiversity and lower effectiveness.
Remotely controlled or autonomous spraying drone has many advantages: it treats locally and it increases efficiency dropping less plant protection products. Doesn’t break the soil neither lowers production. It applies without drift and in a faster way than any other technology, and it lowers the old machinery works and costs.
In terms of market, it offers a win-win for both farmer and environment. We worked on different types of crops and several product treatments where spraying drone has turned out as an efficient solution. So that means increase productivity. Promote the adoption of drones in rural areas.
The main beneficiaries of this use case are farmers, rice growers, agricultural service providers and agricultural consultancies.
The company did an important investment in high payload training, pesticides applier pilots training, authorizations paperwork and with the spraying drones.
Evidence of success
More than 600 ha. sprayed only during 2020. The company has performed test to measure the effectiveness of the spraying. The results show that drone spraying performs more precise applications than the classical methods that farmers use. The improvements in the health condition in the cops are visible too.
The hardest part in spraying drone applications is the restricted regulatory system stated by RD 1311/2012 about sustainable use of pesticides, which just allows aerial applications exceptionally in some crops and treatments.
Potential for learning or transfer
Most of European member States have a restricted regulation both aerial and pesticide treatments, but in the same way, all the decision-makers and agricultural stakeholders know drones can’t be dismissed anymore. As it happens in the rest of continents, agricultural drones are being boost by companies and public authorities as long as they revealed effective and efficient in so many cases. There is a lot of work to do because there aren’t international standards like ISO, although there is an international committee doing so at this moment. Agriculture sector and also drone service providers in Europe need to match efforts to overcome the legal boundaries showing to public opinion, agro chemicals and lawmakers the urgency of deploying this technology in the old continent by doing as tests as we can to follow the pace of other leading agricultural regions globally.