Alabama Extension investigates how aerial drone sprayers can improve local ag operations

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) shows us how spray drones are making a difference for farmers in the region as well as the overall advancements made in these types of machinery since hitting the market.

Technology is constantly evolving within the world of agriculture, including aerial technology like drones. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) shows us how spray drones are making a difference for farmers in the region as well as the overall advancements made in these types of machinery since hitting the market.

“Spray drones are fairly new—less than five years since the first model was commercialized, but there have been adapting to agriculture and evolving very fast in the last 2 to 3 years,” explained ACES Weed Scientist Steve Li. “We have seen a lot of adoption in row crop agriculture and also especially crop forestry spraying and then all the outdoor jobs.”

According to Li, spray drones have several unique benefits over traditional ground sprayers, particularly for producers in Alabama where it rains often and the ground stays wet for too long. Since aerial drones do not touch the ground, drone sprayers are still able to carry out the operation and conduct spraying despite ground conditions like wet, muddy fields. They are also very precise, so they aid producers in avoiding erosion and ground compaction issues.

“You know, just imagine if when you drive a big road crop sprayer in the crop field,” he said. “It’s a lot of weight on top of the field, and you cause a lot of physical damage on the crop. So, we avoid a lot of those issues as well.”

ACES is the first land grant to conduct research using this new model of drone. It is able to cover row crops, specialty crops, seed spreading, and more.

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