With thin rotor blades stretching out on carbon fiber arms from a mass-efficient core, the heavy lift drone stood in front of us majestically, as if waiting for its act in the talent show. I had witnessed drones in flight before, but nothing of this size: less than a pound under the maximum weight of 55 pounds for drones to be allowed to fly under the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) regulations. The research being conducted with this drone, however, was even more fascinating than its technical specifications.
Precision agriculture—or the treatment of only the few most needy areas with pesticides, water, or any other nutrient—seems an obvious method to more efficient farming. However, it requires highly advanced instruments to take and transfer accurate measurements for treatment in specific locations. Along with a smaller drone capable of creating bird’s eye view images of crops or turf grass fields, this heavy lift drone was being tested as a more efficient way of distributing chemical solutions across large areas.
As we watched the drone lift off slowly with the rotor blades beginning to pick up speed, dust was pushed away from underneath it with great force. The drone rose at a constant speed until reaching about 30ft above the ground. Then, as it made its way across the field to distribute an even coating of water, we all stood in awe at the future of agriculture’s amazing technology.