Hylio CEO: FAA drone exemption will increase labor efficiency in crop production

Hylio CEO Arthur Erickson joins us on Market Day Report to discuss the FAA’s recent exemption for drone operators in crop production as the technology becomes more autonomous.

A recent exemption for agriculture drone operators by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will now allow Texas-based drone manufacturer Hylio to fly multiple drones over agriculture fields at the same time with one human operator. It’s a move the company says will greatly benefit crop farmers who use the technology.

Hylio CEO Arthur Erickson spoke with RFD-TV’s own Tammi Arender Wednesday on the Market Day Report to tell us more about the FAA’s ruling and how the exemption allows for increased labor efficiency in agricultural row crop production.

“So this is one of those things where the industry, the technology has been there. We’ve been able to swarm control multiple drones from one ground station for years. The FAA just hadn’t caught up yet. So the FAA is great—they have a lot on their hands with the Boeing stuff and whatnot, but they still move very fast in this industry. So, I’m very thankful. We’re allowed to now swarm heavy drones up to three units with one pilot at once. So, the math is simple. It used to be that you could only fly one drone with one pilot. Therefore, for three drones, you need three pilots out there. It’s not very efficient from a labor perspective. Now with one pilot doing three drones or operating three drones at once, you can have, 50 acres per hour times three -- or 150 acre per hour productivity out of those drones with a single operator. So, it greatly improves the economics of using drones and the productivity, on a top client basis.”
Hylio CEO Arthur Erickson

Erickson’s company, Hylio, designs, manufactures, and then sells drones that autonomously and precisely apply crop inputs, both liquid and solid seeds and granular products. As their drone technology continues to improve and becomes more autonomous, the need for human operators has decreased.

“So right now, you still have humans that are refilling the payload and swapping batteries, but we’re seeing a trend towards just taking the human completely out. So eventually in three to five years, you’ll have these fully autonomous systems where the drones just land in a box, [and] essentially, recharges, refills, [and then] goes out and sprays all day without any human intervention. That’s the general direction we’re going.”
Hylio CEO Arthur Erickson

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