Alabama Extension is the first in the United States to research a new drone model
The market for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) has grown significantly over the past decade. This technology is evolving every day and the demand for drone applications has revolutionized the agricultural industry. Thanks to a new partnership involving the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the sky is no longer the limit for agricultural research.
The DJI Agras T40 spray drone hit the US market in October. This new flagship model is an upgrade of the DJI Agras T30, still considered an industry leader. Thanks to a donation from Agri Spray Drones, Auburn University’s Alabama Extension is the first land-grant institution in the United States to begin agricultural research using the new T40 model.
The new technology offered by Agri Spray Drones will double Extension’s UAS research capability, according to Alabama Extension weed specialist Steve Li.
“We are now able to conduct more on-farm trials and spray more efficiently using the two spray drones,” Li said. “At the same time, we can generate data from multiple models in multiple crops, which speeds up field studies and technology promotion.”
According to Li, an agricultural drone expert, the drone industry is changing rapidly. UAS technology often exceeds training and demonstration opportunities. Staying on the cutting edge of technology allows Alabama Extension to provide crucial training to stakeholders and improve the livelihoods of producers in the state.
Based in Centralia, Missouri, Agri Spray Drones demands unbiased scientific information when providing consumer information.
Taylor Moreland, owner of Agri Spray Drones, met Li at a training event. After many conversations about the drone industry, Moreland and his company decided to collaborate with Li and Alabama Extension.
“After being introduced to Steve Li, we quickly realized he was more obsessed with drones than we were,” Moreland said. “We all said, ‘Fuck, we need to work with this guy more. “”
Moreland said it was essential for his company to create and provide information on the proper application of drones. Scientific research is the backbone of UAS adoption.
“We can create and provide information, but it’s best if it comes from a researcher with an unbiased opinion — especially someone who knows the protocols,” Moreland said.
“Our goals align very well with each other,” Li said. “We both want people to be able to use these new tools to create a better life.”
It can be hard to imagine a drone the size of an average golf cart. Enter the DJI Agras T40. This model features a relatively lightweight frame, increased tank size, and rotary style nozzles for even product distribution.
“Spraying drones can be used by many people – not just row crop farmers,” Li said. corn, cotton, soy or peanuts.”
Many farmers use these systems to grow specialty crops such as cucurbits (squash, zucchini, watermelon, etc.), peaches, ornamentals, and cherries. Some pest control companies also use spray drones to control mosquitoes.
The use cases don’t stop at processing existing cultures. Spray drones are capable of spreading seeds in food plots, as well as dry fertilizers. Consumers can now plant green fields remotely.
Forestry operations also benefit from spray drones. Lumber producers will now have more options for processing clearcut timber. Using a spray drone will provide a cheaper alternative to hiring a helicopter service or a skid sprayer for such a task, especially on small fields and very remote areas. Spray drones also have the potential to precisely manage common invasive species such as black cohosh and kudzu in forests, rights-of-way and parks. They can also control aquatic weeds in areas of ponds and rivers where boats cannot easily reach.
For more information on drones and their impact on agriculture, search for “drones” in the search bar on the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu.