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Field Evaluation of Commercially Available Small Unmanned Aircraft Crop Spray Systems

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2018 ASABE Annual International Meeting  1801143.(doi:10.13031/aim.201801143)
Authors:   Wayne Woldt, Daniel Martin, Mohamed Lahteef, Greg Kruger, Robert Wright, Justin McMechan, Christopher Proctor, Tamra Jackson-Ziems
Keywords:   Unmanned aircraft, unmanned aerial application systems, unmanned aerial spray systems, spray pattern testing, drone sprayer, wind tunnel testing


Agricultural research and development on small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) has been directed toward UAS enabled sensing to detect features of interest. While compelling, there is an immediate need to increase the breadth and depth of UAS-based research, to move beyond sensing, and explore active intervention in agricultural production systems. This paper is focused on the concept of crop protection through ultra-precise, unmanned aerial application systems, and seeks to initiate research discussion in this important area of opportunity. Toward this end, two different, commercially available, small Unmanned Aerial Application Systems (sUAAS - defined as less than 55 lbs. maximum take-off weight) were evaluated for operational techniques and application system efficacy under dynamic field conditions. The performance of the factory supplied spray equipment systems are documented using traditional aerial spray testing methods that have been modified for UAS enabled application systems, referred to as small Unmanned Aerial Application Systems (sUAAS). Results from initial testing protocols indicate that the factory supplied systems are quite different in design and implementation, with spray test results that reflect this difference in design, in both deposition and spray swath. Further, it is apparent that with the advent of unmanned aerial application systems, and the unique characteristics of the integrated aircraft and application systems, there is a very real need for the development of standardized sUAAS testing procedures.

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