drone pic

Agri Spray Drones, founded by Taylor Moreland in January 2020 near Centralia, Mo., offers producers another way to spray their crops. (Photo provided)

With prices and availability of agricultural chemicals questionable for 2022, precise and timely field applications could be more important than ever to crop producers’ bottom lines.

For overcoming wet fields, limited applicator availability and in-field obstacles, one Missouri-based company has the answer.

Agri Spray Drones was founded by Taylor Moreland in January 2020 near Centralia, Mo., after years of research into the agricultural drone marketplace and a career as a crop consultant and dealer for Pioneer.

“New technology, knowledge of agriculture and the applications these drones could have, as well as customer support — those were all key things I wanted to bring to the table,” Moreland said.

“When we make claims about efficiency or durability we want those claims to have been field-tested and grounded in truth.”

How it works

Drones are increasingly more common, even in rural America. Chances are a friend or neighbor has a small quad-copter model piloted by a joystick or an iPad application. Agri-Spray’s drones are different in size, quality and application than any small personal drone on the market.

“The initial reaction to these drones for people who are used to traditional ground rigs is to think it will take all day to spray 20 acres,” Moreland said. “And if these were designed to do the same type of application as a ground rig it probably would. But, these are much more similar to airplane or helicopter applications.”

Agri-Spray drones can be more efficient for small, tree-lined fields, wet ground or for areas where it may be dangerous to transport a traditional spray rig from field to field.

While the tank still needs to be mixed appropriately and the batteries must be kept charged, the drones Agri Spray offers do just about everything else on their own.

“The beauty of our drones is that they’re completely autonomous,” Moreland said. “You set your field boundaries and the drone maps out a route across the field. Once you’ve filled the spray tank and put in the battery you’re essentially ready to go.”

The software used for Agri Spray drones can be used in a variety of different applications, including variable rate applications for applying fertilizer or broadcasting seed, but their primary function is to efficiently navigate even complex fields.

“The software is quite a bit different than most traditional tractor-based field mapping software and that’s a good thing,” Moreland said.

“It’s much more refined and very user-friendly.”

Speaking of specs

In photos, Agri Spray drones don’t look too foreign compared to most other drones, but in reality the drones are large enough to carry tanks ranging from 3 to 8 gallons and the overall weight without the tank or battery is only around 60 pounds.

“The T30 is one of the biggest models that we have right now and it’s about nine feet from prop to prop,” Moreland said.

“It’s about the size of a truck bed, or can be easily trailered from one field to the next.”

Traditional drones measure battery life in terms of minutes or hours, but for Agri Spray drones the key factor is getting as many tanks of solution on the field as quickly as possible, so Moreland tends to measure time in tanks sprayed.

“It all depends on what rate you’re spraying, but pretty commonly you’ll get two tank loads per battery charge on a larger field,” Moreland said.

“Typically we keep one battery on the charger and switch them out when the drone returns for a tank refill, because you have to stop to fill the tank up anyway and that limits downtime.”

Most Agri Spray drones come with a generator for easy battery charging in the field, as well as multiple batteries to keep extras charged and replaceable to limit downtime.

Similarly, Moreland said customer service for Agri Spray drones comes with support from trained field technicians, access to a large supply of replacement parts, and guidance for air traffic regulations, as well as on-farm training and demonstrations for interested operators.

Alternative uses

Agri Spray drones aren’t just for spraying.

“Most of our models also come with a spreader attachment, which is a dry material tank with a spinner on the bottom to replace the wet tank,” Moreland said. “The tank can carry up to 70 pounds of product and can dump from very high to very low rates.”

“One of the best applications we’ve seen for the spreader tank option is over-seeding in fields with standing crops,” Moreland said. “It can be done without having to rely on a timely airplane application and reduces damage to the standing crop while getting the cover crop established.”

Agri Spray drones also can work in fields with obstacles, like tree-filled pastures or orchards where precise spray applications are made difficult by the field environment.

Rapp writes for Farm Talk, of Parsons, Kan.

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