A cargo drone demonstrated at the recent Agritechnica 2019 machinery show in Germany is a first step towards bringing this technology closer to commercial application, after full testing in the field, according to John Deere and Volocopter.
It was presented as the first large drone adapted for agricultural use. Called the VoloDrone, it was equipped with a John Deere crop sprayer.
With a potential payload of 200kg, the VoloDrone can spray a huge area.
Potential for use in agriculture may particularly arise in areas with difficult topography, where it can be used to increase the efficiency of use of crop protection agents, or for sowing seeds.
The VoloDrone is powered by 18 rotors, and features a fully electric drive, using lithium-ion batteries.
One battery charge allows a flight time of up to 30 minutes.
The VoloDrone can be operated remotely or automatically on a pre-programmed route.
Different devices can be mounted on the frame. For crop protection, the drone has two liquid tanks, a pump, and a spray bar.
Thanks to its low altitude flight, an area coverage of up to six hectares per hour can be achieved, and the spray management is improved.
This would make the VoloDrone a sustainable, precise, and cost-effective alternative to using helicopters for aerial spraying.
With high flexibility and GPS control, more selective area-specific treatments are possible.
Appropriate flight and application tests will be carried out with the demonstrator VoloDrone sprayer over the next growing season.
Volocopter is a pioneer company in the urban air mobility area, offering flying “taxis” developed for safe, emission-free manned flight in cities.
The German firm has agreed a funding deal to bring its VoloCity aircraft to commercial launch within three years.