Farmers willing to adopt various uses of drones in rural areas

Growing farmer interest in using drones has led a Southland catchment group to organize a field day to showcase the technology.

A drone carrying out spraying.
Photo: Supplied / Otago South River Care

Otago South River Care is holding a field day today and tomorrow at a farm in Balclutha with over 80 people expected.

Group coordinator Rebecca Begg said members of the capture group often talk about innovation on farms and drones continue to emerge as something farmers want to try.

“Many are interested but not ready to take the leap just yet, so we want to show them what’s available and bring some of the technology down to the South Island, because most of it is based on the South Island. North.”

Drone company Ferntech and contract spraying company Aerial Agri Solutionz will showcase their drones.

Begg said there is a growing list of how drones can be used on farms.

“You have your standard drones, which you can use for inspection purposes, either looking for inventory or checking troughs. You can get drones with speakers on them which people call barking drones so that they are used for gathering.

“We have a thermal drone coming out of Auckland which can be used for pest control and spray drones which can be used for spot and blanket spraying, especially in small areas that you can’t get to with a helicopter.”

The drone that barks, the Mavic 2 Enterprise.

A barking drone
Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Begg said farmers are embracing the technology.

“I think there are a lot of things right now that are pushing farmers to look at how they can do things more efficiently and also more sustainably, especially when you look at things like the price of diesel and fuel.

“Technology is now integrated into farming practices and drones can help with so many things.”

A new seed-dropping drone could be the future of mass tree planting.

A drone that drops seeds at work.
Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

Bill Paterson, who runs Aerial Agri Solutionz in Southland, will showcase his 16 liter drone which can be used for spraying or spreading seeds.

He said the drones have high accuracy and allow farmers to access areas without having to create tracks through crops.

“Obviously the drones don’t carry as much as a helicopter, but the accuracy when it starts, the GPS is down to centimeters, so in tight blocks that have sensitive areas around them, that’s where the drones really come into their own. Nozzles on them so you can make bigger droplets to avoid drift.”

Paterson, who worked as a commercial helicopter pilot before the pandemic, said interest has grown since he set up the company earlier this year.

“We have sprayed around 200 hectares so far, including our own farm, and we plan to do a lot more research and development over the winter so that we can increase the area next summer.”

Bill Paterson with his drone

Bill Pateron with his drone.
Photo: Supplied / Rebecca Begg

The technology is expensive and there are a lot of rules to follow when flying drones, so it’s not as easy for farmers to go it alone, he said.

“I’m lucky; I have my experience as a pilot, but there are discussions that in future there will be more than one system like Australia to get your certificate. aerial operation, which would facilitate access.

“I’m sure in the future we will see a lot more drones being used in the agricultural sector,” he said.