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UK approves agricultural drone spraying for the first time

Drone maker XAG says the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has given operational authorisation to its agricultural spraying aircraft P40 and V40. This is the first time drone spraying and spreading has been legalised for use on UK farms.

XAG, one of the top drone manufacturers in the world, says it started exploring the UK drone market way back in 2018 by collaborating with Harper Adams University in research on precision agriculture. Later, XAG joined forces with England-based Auto Spray Systems to open the communication channel with the regulators on using drones in agriculture, forestry, and horticulture.

Trade association ARPAS-UK also played a major role in this quest, helping and guiding Auto Spray Systems throughout the approval process.

Change became possible with the release of the UK Government’s ambition statement and vision for commercial drones in July 2022, after which CAA started to consider granting operational authorisation to spray drones over 25 kg.

Auto Spray Systems worked closely with the CAA to develop a legal pathway to enable the safe use of spray drones, highlighting how farmers in 50 other countries around the world are benefiting from the technology.

As Andy Sproson, director of Auto Spray Systems, explains: "We’ve spent a lot of time working with farmers to develop uses for drones that will make a real, day-to-day difference in productivity and worker safety.

"One of the first applications was greenhouse shading. Usually, this is done by men balancing on the gutters, while they drag a 100 m hose behind them, as they spray on the white paint. We found that the drones were able to do the job much more quickly and, of course, that meant no one had to risk their lives balancing on a gutter, surrounded by glass."

Other possible applications include plant protection spraying, fertiliser spreading, and broadcast sowing.

UK farmers have typically used large tractors or self-propelled sprayers. In addition to high costs, the use of heavy ground machinery is limited by the rainy climate and mountainous terrain. The alternative solution is to utilise a fully autonomous drone to reach and treat previously inaccessible land with no damage.


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