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Use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft for Pesticide Applications: Issues and Outlook

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Application of pesticides in the agricultural, rural and urban environments requires mobility of the applicator, ranging from targeted knapsack spraying to large scale, large area treatments from aircraft. Historically, the applicator has been coupled to the application equipment or positioned on the application vehicle and navigating the vehicle while operating the application equipment. Often, however, the proximity of the application personnel to the storage reservoir and the nozzle output of the pesticide spray can create potential human exposure hazards and the travel of vehicle, especially in rugged, outdoor environments create physical hazards. Further, the most significant cost factor in the pesticide application process is often the labor cost, particularly in low productivity or monotonous operations. New technical developments in remotely operated, or “unmanned” vehicles offer the potential to improve the safety and productivity of pesticide applications greatly. Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) are operated remotely by radio telemetry, during which time the operator, and often, a visual observer (VO), maintain visual contact with the aircraft. The designation of RPA is specified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and recently ICAO has established that RPA are to be regulated as civilian aircraft by appropriate member states. The most common uses in agriculture have been for remote sensing, such as visual inspection of crop or field conditions and for tracking assets such as machinery, workers or products. RPA technology has potential utility in agriculture, forestry, invasive pest eradication and vector control for not only observation and sensing but also for delivery of payloads, including application of agrochemicals. This article discusses the issues associated with agrochemical application from remotely piloted aircraft.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2016

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