How does a spray drone work?
Our XAG drone is built specifically for spraying/seeding. It has an onboard pump system and four atomizer nozzles that can deliver a variable flow rate and droplet size. The downwards thrust of the motor pushes the spray into the crop/weed allowing for excellent penetration. The drone gets its instructions either manually from a pilot or automatically from a pre-planned route. The drone is powered by a large Lithium Polymer battery. Our batteries are able to charge fast enough to enable continuous operation. We also use an automated tank refilled that limits chemical exposure.
Where do you operate?
We are based in Christchurch, New Zealand and server the greater Canterbury area.
How do you charge for your services?
We can either charge by the hour or per hectare. Our hourly charge is only for the time our drone is in the air and is cost effective for spot spray jobs and smaller areas. Our hectare rate is dependent on the terrain and water rate.
Please contact us to discuss pricing and receive a free no obligations quote.
We charge a modest travel fee per kilometre from the edge of Christchurch.
How does the drone know where to go?
We have two main methods of spraying. Manual and Automated.
Manual spraying is carried out by a pilot with a remote control. This is ideal for smaller less complex jobs as there is little setup involved.
Automated flight is required for anything larger or more complex. The quickest method is to map an area using a RTK surveying pole. From here we can plan an automated flight grid. Alternately we have a specialized mapping drone. This drone can accurately map an area in 2D or 3D using RTK and photogrammetry. From here we can create an accurate spot or grid spray plan.
How can your drone spray so accurately?
When flying automated flights our drone is connected to an RTK base station. This base station improves the accuracy of GPS signals to +/- 10cm. Flight routes are generated using maps from a surveying drone also connected to the same system.
From these high definition maps we are able to identify the target area visually and generate either a spot or a grid route. When spraying our system shows us our flight history so we can ensure an even coverage.
Our spray drone is able to get its height from either a ground radar or through a 3D DSM model generated from the surveying drone.
How fast can your drone spray?
Our spray area per hour is dependant mostly on the target species as this affects the water rate. For woody weeds such as gorse and broom we can cover around 1ha/hour. For plant protection operations we can cover up to 10ha/hour.
Why can drones use lower water rates?
Lower water rates are a key factor to the efficiency of spraying by drone. In general, we can spray most things at 25% the water rate of a helicopter operator. This is due to the following factors:
- Increased penetration - our nozzles are directly below our propellers. This means all the air that is pushed down to keep the drone up is directly penetrating the crop/weeds
- Designed for spraying - our drones are designed purely for spraying. This means we get a very uniform spray pattern
- Spray release height - we can spray a lot closer to the ground.
- Precise droplet size - our atomizers release a very uniform droplet size
- Accurate spray pattern - we can deliver our spray very accurately due to a smaller swath and less interference from blades
- Minimal spray drift - because we fly closer to the ground and have less blade interference our spray goes where we tell it to
How does the drone ensure an even application?
Our spray system uses a variable rate pump that is able to automatically calculate the delivery rate based on its speed and swath size. Our pumps and seeding system are able to be accurately calibrated to ensure accuracy. We are able to adjust our application rate to a very granular level from as low as 15L/ha to up to 450L/ha.
Isn't your tank too small to cover a large area?
We may not be able to carry a huge amount of spray but we can do a lot of flights in a short amount of time. Our operation allows for a very quick refill time that keeps the drone in the air. Our pre-planned routes make this time in the air very efficient. We can also spray at lower water rates than other methods while achieving the same result (see why can drones use lower water rates?)
How long does the battery last?
Our flight time is dependent on how heavy our payload is. With an empty tank, we can fly for 18 minutes and for 10 minutes with a full tank. With this, we can usually complete two flights before charging a battery. We operate with multiple batteries; with our rapid charger this means we can achieve continuous operation.
What equipment do you use?
We use the XAG drone system. XAG is the largest agricultural UAV service provider worldwide so they are reliable and
Our P30 Spray drone has the following features:
- 16L spray capacity
- RTK positioning system (+/- 10 cm)
- Interchangeable spray tanks with level detection
- 90-550 μm droplet size (Adjustable)
- 2m - 6m Spray width
- 5.6L/min Spray rate
- Terrain sensing and obstacle avoidance
- IP67 waterproof rating
To help support our operation we also use the following equipment:
- Xmission surveying drone with multispectral camera
- XAG JetSeed system for aerial seeding
- Rapid battery charger and spare batteries for continuous operation
- RTK base station and rover
- Automated tank filling pump
- Drone Spray trailer carrying up to 1000L of water
What insurance cover do you have?
Yes. Working with machines in the air comes with a lot of risk. To help mitigate this risk we have a full range of insurances including:
- Public, Product and Statutory Liability ($1,000,000 cover)
- Aerial application Liability ($250,000 cover)
- UAV physical loss or damage - to keep us running if the unthinkable happens and we have a crash
What certifications do you hold?
Flying a drone can be a risky business especially when spraying from this drone. Our pilots are highly trained with hundreds of hours flying drones and fly under/hold the following qualifications:
- CAA Part 102 unmanned aircraft operator certificate
- RPAS Part 102 Pilot Certificate
- Pilot chemical rating
- UAV agricultural rating
All of our pilots also undertake a yearly OCA (Operational Competency Assessment)
Do you have a Health and Safety plan?
Yes. Our part 102 Operator Manual includes an extensive Health and Safety component that covers hazard identification, training and competency, aircraft maintenance and accidents and incident investigation/reporting