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Are drones a reality for vine spraying, or purely sci-fi fantasy?

Par Vitisphere Le 03 novembre 2017
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Are drones a reality for vine spraying, or purely sci-fi fantasy?
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reating vineyards planted on steep inclines is extremely challenging, as well as being hazardous for tractor drivers. The emergence of drones and mini-helicopters offers new solutions, as evidenced by the following example currently being developed.

Probably the most advanced solution in the development phase comes from Swiss company Agrofly. For the past two years, its manager, Frédéric Hemmeler has been developing a drone for spraying several crops, including grapes. Weighing a total 40kg, it can carry up to 20kg fully laden and hold up to 16 litres. Its four rechargeable, LiPo-type batteries give it a complete flight time of 20 to 25 minutes. The device flies over vines, 1.5 m off the ground, directed by RTK GPS with centimetre accuracy, spraying from the top. By summer 2018, Hemmeler plans to add a tailpiece – a kind of drop pipe – fitted beneath the appliance that is adjustable in height and located away from the air flow, so that vineyards can be treated laterally, thereby accurately targeting the clusters.

Drone spraying set for 2018

Using 100 l/hectare and travelling at a speed of 12 km/hour, it takes between 35 to 40 minutes to spray one hectare of vines. During that time, the batteries have to be changed two to three times and the tank filled at least five times. Hemmeler intends to reduce the volume to 45-60 litres/ha “through precision spraying and improved accuracy”.

The device was tried and tested for spraying in the Valais region of Switzerland in 2017, in conjunction with Syngenta and Agroscope in Changins, with a view to maximising deposits on the vines. 

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