This post originally appeared on http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003091897.
[Editor’s Note: Drones are being seen as a great tool for improving productivity in mountainous areas.]
The Yomiuri ShimbunThe use of drones in agriculture is attracting growing attention, especially among older farmers whose physical burden can be lessened by the devices.
The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has included drones in its guidance for farmers so that they can fly drones safely and spray pesticides properly.
At a time when farmers in Japan are growing older and older, people related to agriculture hope drones will improve farming efficiency.
“Move the controller forward slowly,” said an instructor to participants of a training session in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, in late June. The session was organized by a drone maker.
Twelve rice farmers took part and practiced keeping a drone at a certain height over a space assumed to be a rice paddy.
A 52-year-old participant from Joetsu, Niigata Prefecture, grows rice in a paddy of about 60 hectares.
Until now, he has sprayed pesticides in midsummer by carrying a sprayer on his back that weighs more than 10 kilograms. “The work has been physically hard. Beginning this summer, I want to use a drone for spraying,” he said with a smile.
At the request of farmers, the ministry added safety instructions for drones in its guidance.
Drones are more agile than remote-controlled helicopters used for spraying pesticides from the air.
On the other hand, as drones cause smaller downward air currents, sprayed pesticides can drift to nearby areas.
Therefore, the revised guidance recommends that drones be flown at an altitude of about two meters, about half that of remote-controlled helicopters, which are larger than drones.
Because the distance between controllers and drones is limited to a maximum of 50 meters, which is one-third of that of remote-controlled helicopters, users can keep a closer eye on the drones. Drones are expected to be especially useful for improving productivity in mountainous areas.
According to the ministry, remote-controlled helicopters were used to spray insecticides over a total of about 1.05 million hectares of farmland in fiscal 2014.
The helicopters are used mainly in plains and can spray pesticides over an area of two to three hectares in one flight. But they cost from ¥10 million to ¥13 million each.
Drones can spray pesticides over only about one hectare per flight, but they are less expensive at about ¥2 million to ¥2.6 million each.
Another advantage of drones is that their small size makes them suitable for use in small rice paddies.