A crop-spraying drone has taken its first legal flight in South Africa - a big breakthrough which could radically transform farming in South Africa. After a lengthy process, the DJI drone (the AGRAS MG-1P model) was allowed to fly earlier this month.
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) granted a licence to Durban-based ROC holder DC Geomatics, who operates the drone. The company proved drones equipped with crop spraying operation specifications are safe to use, passing CAA regulations.
The licence is a major milestone for Tim Wise, who is planning to get at least 16 of these drones in the air in the country. His company, PACSys, together with the Agridoc agriculture division of DC Geomatics, teamed up 18 months ago to get the drones approved for commercial use.
It's been worth the wait, says Wise. He believes the crop-spraying drones can improve sugar cane returns, by being able to spray the 25% of missed land aircraft can’t really spray due to challenging terrain. This will be a massive boost to cash-strapped sugar farmers who are competing against low-priced imports, while battling water shortages and pests.
“Farmers need every inch of the land to get the full value out of their production to make their margins,” said Wise.