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UC Davis Investigates Using Helicopter Drones For Crop Dusting 77

cylonlover writes "Researchers at University of California, Davis, in cooperation with the Yamaha Motor Corporation, are testing UAV crop dusting on the Oakville Experimental Vineyard at the UC Oakville Station using a Yamaha RMax remote-controlled helicopter. The purpose is to study the adaptation of Japanese UAV crop dusting techniques for US agriculture, but not all the hurdles they face are technological."
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UC Davis Investigates Using Helicopter Drones For Crop Dusting

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  • by DavidClarkeHR ( 2769805 ) <david...clarke@@@hrgeneralist...ca> on Monday June 24, 2013 @06:25PM (#44096689)
    The non-technological hurdles are exactly what you'd expect - government regulations, air-traffic restrictions and (restrictions on) emergency landing procedures.

    Doesn't really seem like a problem - except in california, where realistic, useful legislation rarely passes on a permanent basis.
    • Warning, drones may cause cancer in the State of California!

      Doesn't everything cause cancer in the state of California?

      Will they put little tags on the drones that must not be removed under threat of prosecution?

      Regulations -- a poor substitute for commonsense.

    • The non-technological hurdles are exactly what you'd expect - government regulations, air-traffic restrictions and (restrictions on) emergency landing procedures.

      Doesn't really seem like a problem - except in california, where realistic, useful legislation rarely passes on a permanent basis.

      Even if California is as wicked as you say, do you seriously suspect that proponents of some economically useful drone application wouldn't just seek changes at the federal level [uslegal.com] that would preempt whatever state regulations happened to annoy them?

      The issue is presently somewhat unsettled(in part because the FAA is a bit jumpy about the safety of a bunch of glorified model aircraft running around without either a Serious airworthiness workup or a pilot whose continued non-splatteredness is directly dependen

      • Even if California is as wicked as you say, do you seriously suspect that proponents of some economically useful drone application wouldn't just seek changes at the federal level [uslegal.com] that would preempt whatever state regulations happened to annoy them?

        Good question, why don't we ask the medical marijuana dispensary community how that works?

        • Based on the continued harassment by the feds, even in the face of relatively strong local support, I'd say that the 'lobby the feds' strategy is working very well for team Law and Order. Based on the relative indifference of local cops to overt pot dealers, I'd say that the 'lobby the states' strategy is working very well for team decriminalization...

          There isn't just one lobby at work, here.

    • hackers just wait for some to hijack one and crop dust over area loaded with people.

      • And then there will be fewer mosquitoes. They already do that in a lot of cities.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          And then there will be fewer mosquitoes. They already do that in a lot of cities.

          And if the drones are filled with mustard gas, there will be fewer people, too.

        • True, the amount of people probably remains the same. Initially. Some of them may get seriously ill though. Poison remains poison, no matter how "smart" you sell it.
          • Poison remains poison, no matter how "smart" you sell it.

            But the same things are not poisonous to all life-forms.

      • hackers just wait for some to hijack one and crop dust over area loaded with people.

        They are not spraying DDT. Most modern pesticides (especially those used in aerial spraying) have little toxicity to humans. When there were protests about the safety of malathion used in aerial spraying to kill medflies in California, the governors chief-of-staff went on TV and drank a glass in front of the cameras [wikipedia.org].

        • Never mind the actual safety or lack thereof; "But CHEMICALS!" from the droolers on the Left is the equivalent of "But BENGHAZI!" from the droolers on the Right.

          • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

            by jbburks ( 853501 )
            Chemicals are dangerous. Especially DHMO. Thousands of people have DIED from it, but cities and towns keep pumping it out. Check out this site for more details: http://www.bandhmo.org/ [bandhmo.org]
        • See, bureaucrats *are* good for something. You'd never have gotten one of the malathion producers to do such a thing!

          Disclaimer - I make no claim that this statement is necessarily true; however, it would hardly be the first breathtakingly stupid grand gesture made by somebody who believed a deceptive PR campaign.

        • by Cwix ( 1671282 )

          The chemical use was Malathion. It is not as safe as you claim. Emphasis added by me.

          Malathion itself is of low toxicity; however, absorption or ingestion into the human body readily results in its metabolism to malaoxon, which is substantially more toxic.[16] In studies of the effects of long-term exposure to oral ingestion of malaoxon in rats, malaoxon has been shown to be 61 times more toxic than malathion.[16] It is cleared from the body quickly, in three to five days.[17] According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency there is currently no reliable information on adverse health effects of chronic exposure to malathion.[18] Acute exposure to extremely high levels of malathion will cause body-wide symptoms whose intensity will be dependent on the severity of exposure. Possible symptoms include skin and eye irritation, cramps, nausea, diarrhea, excessive sweating, seizures and even death. Most symptoms tend to resolve within several weeks. Malathion present in untreated water is converted to malaoxon during the chlorination phase of water treatment, so malathion should not be used in waters that may be used as a source for drinking water, or any upstream waters.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malathion [wikipedia.org]

        • That's hilarious, I thought you were kidding. I remember an amusing publicity stunt in which a scientist pwned Ralph Nader by declaring that he would eat as much plutonium as Nader would consume caffeine, but this is the first time I've heard of someone actually putting their money where their mouth is.

        • Historical reminder: DDT was not banned because of its human health effects. It is somewhat toxic, but no worse than a lot of other stuff we spray on crops today. It was banned because of its effects on other animals in the environment.

        • by anubi ( 640541 )
          The metering system is mechanical, and if its gonna fail, its gonna fail whether or not a human is flying the thing...

          We already have completely autonomous tractors on the farms... completely robotic - plowing, reaping, harvesting.

          Oh, an autonomous tractor run amuck - oh! the horror! - but we do not hear of it because there are sufficient safeguards it doesn't happen.

          So what's the big deal about a robotic crop duster?
        • by smithmc ( 451373 ) *
          That guy died, twelve years later. COINCIDENCE???. (Probably, since he died of a sudden heart attack.)
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      The non-technological hurdles are exactly what you'd expect - government regulations, air-traffic restrictions and (restrictions on) emergency landing procedures.

      Given crop dusting is generally done 100' AGL, air traffic isn't as big a deal (you truck in the UAV - even regular crop dusters need a ground support vehicle, so you're having to drive there anyhow). Emergency landings generally you plop right down on the field. It's unmanned, so falling down is an option. You'll trample some crop, but the same ha

  • This sounds like a decent application- using GPS this could be completely automated.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Be aware that Monsanto's RoundUp herbicide is designed to exterminate all plant life except their GMO animal hybrids. It does this through its main component glyphosate [wikipedia.org] interfering with the shikimate pathway [wikipedia.org] present in all plant life, including the intestinal flora in your gut which is essential to human health and even survival.

      Sure, flying just above ground level and jumping over water pipes and flying under power lines while crop dusting is fun and sexy ... but only if you avoid thinking about your role

      • Wow, is that a specious argument. "You can spray RoundUp from a cropduster, and RoundUp is bad, therefore crop dusters are bad". By the same argument, I can use a car to do a drive-by shooting, therefore cars should be outlawed.

        There are a thousand other things you can spray from an aircraft: pyrethrin insecticides, narrow-targeted herbicides, antifungal and insecticidal bacteria, insecticidal nematode eggs, and so on. Many of these practices meet organic standards.

  • ..ten years ago - http://www.gizmag.com/go/2440/ [gizmag.com] and http://rmax.yamaha-motor.com.au/ [yamaha-motor.com.au]

  • I love th3e term "crop dusting". Whoever invented it deserves their spin-doctoring millions. When I think of "dusting". I think of my grandma using a mild feather duster to remove a bit of dust from her ornaments. I would never think of soaking a field with a few tons cancer-causing chemicals. Hooray for semantics!

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      Then blame the bakers, who have been dusting pastry with sugar probably since the middle ages.

    • by dan828 ( 753380 )
      Yeah, except the term was coined a long time ago when the insecticide being applied was in powder form, hence the "dusting" name.
    • You are the low information demographic we all complain about. Please do not vote.
  • We have all these amazing advances in technology, but all we ever want to use them for is surreptitiously farting on people. The world never changes.

  • In California, you have to complete a two year apprenticeship to become certified for aerial application.

    This is not so much about flying an airplane (which presumably a commercially rated pilot can manage).

    It is mostly about handling pesticides, etc. I have not looked but my understanding is that other states have similar requirements.

    So even if UC Davis proves the concept, I doubt it relieves the operator of being state certified.

  • I work for an Ag company in the Pacific Northwest and I can tell you that while there is a use for UAV technology in agriculture, it is not an end all replacement for spraying and other applications. It lacks the payload to be efficient with all farms, many are too large to be sprayed in total with such a small device. Also the article seems to vilify the tractorand current methods to a certain degree, when in fact precision agriculture [wikipedia.org] has helped implement gps, autosteer [wikipedia.org], and autoboom [youtube.com] technology (among man
    • I don't think the people in the article were claiming it was an end-all solution, or that it was particularly new. They're doing ag extension work in California wine country, where the fields are small, the profit margins are huge, and the crops are difficult to move through with ground-based machinery. Very different situation than what you're experiencing in the Northwest, I'm guessing, and probably ideal for a UAV.

      • Small is a relative term, even many of the vineyards in California wine country are many hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of acres in scale. A device only capable of a payload for 10-20 acres of application is hardly efficient when most farms are to this larger scale. Here in the PNW we grow nearly every major US crop, and Washington in particular has become a front runner in American viticulture with many thousands of acres of vineyards. So the situation is not so different, in fact it is quite similar.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday June 25, 2013 @06:46AM (#44099037) Journal
    UC Davis spokesman, Mr Wesp Rays Tudents, clarified that using campus policeman to spray on protesting students sitting on the side walk provoked too many protests and parodies. They believe the urban remote controlled helicopter would be a more humane approach and protect the identity of the policeman doing the spraying.
  • "but not all the hurdles they face are technological" Wow, I really wouldn't expect that. /sarcasm

It has just been discovered that research causes cancer in rats.

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