UC Davis Flying High With Vineyard Drones

UC Davis recently began the use of a Yamaha helicopter drone to spray pesticides on its Oakville vineyard. The helicopter, called an RMAX, allows vineyard workers to control the helicopter from the ground. 

“It’s a vehicle with potential where we know there are things we can do with it that we couldn’t do in the past – spot treatments, quick treatments, delivery of a very localized payload,” UC Davis professor Ken Giles said in a recent interview with The Press-Democrat.
Traditionally, estates spray pesticides by hand or by tractor. The drone method allows more freedom and flexibility, Giles said, and cuts down on man hours used for vine maintenance. 


The drone in question is a Yamaha unmanned helicopter that weighs 140 pounds and can carry 2.1 gallons of liquid in its tanks. The copter features an electric starter and a gasoline-powered engine which utilizes two-cycle engine oil.


The Yamaha drone is capable of spraying up to two acres in six minutes without any soil compaction or pilot risk.


According to Yamaha’s RMAX website, the company began developing the unmanned aircraft in the 80’s after a request from Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery. 


“In 2001, the total area of farmland being sprayed by RMAX unmanned helicopters reached 310,000 hectares,” the site says. 


The drone method can be particularly helpful for vineyards located on steep hills and mountainous terrain where tractors have a difficult time navigating sharp slops and narrow passageways. 


Yamaha currently is applying for authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration for use of their unmanned vehicles for agricultural purposes. 


By: Snooth – Articles


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