UAV sprayer for agriculture

 

I am a mostly retired farmer with some experience in building farm machinery including air seeders, grain conveyors, grain drying aeration and the like. I have also played with quad copters  for a number of years including a DJI 2+ for crop inspections. I am interested in building a flying boom type agriculture sprayer that could apply fungicide to flowering canola and wheat.  The idea is to use the boom or tube, about 4.75 inches inside diameter  for the frame and also contain the fungicide. It would fly maybe 6 to 12 inches above the crop at a speed of maybe 10 mph with propellers all along the tube creating a down draft to help disperse the chemical into the canopy of the crop getting excellent penetration . Most fields around here are 1 half mile long and to go back and forth I would need about 7 lbs. of product for every foot of sprayer. As an example 20 feet of sprayer times 7 lbs. per foot would be 140 lb. of product in the tube. A back and forth trip of 1 mile at 10 mph with a turn around and some hover time would take 8 minutes. That would be the right time to change batteries and a refill. The supply trailer would be a low flat bed unit with the bottom housing the water tank and the sprayer homing in on top  after each run. On the farm we have an RTK GPS signal that could be used.

Now the benefits, less chemical used, having very accurate coverage with very little drift and applying during night time when bees and the like are at home. There are meany more benefits like no pilot on board.

Now is this feasible?  If so, what would make it work? The technology today is almost endless with ultra sonic perception, GPS, compass, altitude, way points, 3D FPV and the like.   . What would the cost to build and maintain be? An airplane here cost from 7 to 10 dollars an acre. Would like to start with 1000 acres each year.

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  • Paul-

    Thanks for the compliments, we are really happy with how this vehicle has been performing.To answer your questions:

    Depending on the application, there are a few ways we can tell if the tank is empty. The pressure tank carries an external gas bottle, which allows the tank to be at a constant pressure during the whole flight, regardless of the liquid level in the tank.

    When spraying row crops, we set the pressure to a setpoint (usually around 40psi) and then calculate the amount of time it will take to empty the tank based on the nozzle selected. We then use a timer during the flight to know when the tank is empty. Obviously not high tech, but it seems to work ok.

    When doing spot spraying, we set up the tank to be triggered by the camera trigger on the pixhawk. This allows us to alter the 'shutter duration' and control the shot size from the tank. For example, when spraying for certain invasive grasses, we desire a shot size of approx. 7 fl-oz. We set the camera trigger for 1 second, and adjust the pressure to match the nozzle. This gives us approx. 16 shots per tank (each shot is logged in a KMZ file from mission planner).

    Also, we have a small FPV camera attached to the vehicle that lets us see the nozzle. When the nozzle starts sputtering, we know that we are out!

    Let me know if you have any questions.

    Thanks

    -Brian

  • hi Brian. excellent build you got there bro. just one question, how do you know if the tank is empty?



    Brian Riskas said:

    Bill-

    I do not know where you are located, but in the USA you will most likely be limited to a 55lb all up weight if you want to operate under part 107. That being said, for a 140lb payload you are realistically looking at something the size of a small manned helicopter (Robinson R22 or similar).

    I developed a large X8 and sprayer system for dispensing pheremone based pesticides here in California last year. The vehicle itself with a 1 gallon tank system weighs about 50 lbs, and can fly for approx. 30 minutes with that payload. I also developed a boom system to compliment the tank. For the products that were being used, only a very small amount was needed to achieve coverage (approx. .9 oz/acre).

    For our application, 1 gallon of product would cover a very large area, so we were simply limited by flight time. We also found that strategically placing the nozzles under the rotors allowed for the products to be evenly distributed inside the canopy.

    Overall I think that there is a potential in your application, it might be worth seeing if you could get the same effectiveness out of a concentrated product, and thus reduce the amount of product needed to be carried on each flight. Feel free to contact me brian at rmd-systems dot com if you have any questions, I would be happy to share my experiences.

    Thanks

    -Brian

  • Bill-

    I do not know where you are located, but in the USA you will most likely be limited to a 55lb all up weight if you want to operate under part 107. That being said, for a 140lb payload you are realistically looking at something the size of a small manned helicopter (Robinson R22 or similar).

    I developed a large X8 and sprayer system for dispensing pheremone based pesticides here in California last year. The vehicle itself with a 1 gallon tank system weighs about 50 lbs, and can fly for approx. 30 minutes with that payload. I also developed a boom system to compliment the tank. For the products that were being used, only a very small amount was needed to achieve coverage (approx. .9 oz/acre).

    For our application, 1 gallon of product would cover a very large area, so we were simply limited by flight time. We also found that strategically placing the nozzles under the rotors allowed for the products to be evenly distributed inside the canopy.

    Overall I think that there is a potential in your application, it might be worth seeing if you could get the same effectiveness out of a concentrated product, and thus reduce the amount of product needed to be carried on each flight. Feel free to contact me brian at rmd-systems dot com if you have any questions, I would be happy to share my experiences.

    Thanks

    -Brian

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