Farmers were some of the earliest civil adopters, using drones to identify differences in crop conditions.
Yamaha Motor Co. has been dusting crops in Japan with UAVs for more than two decades. With the cost dropping for cargo-carrying drones, DJI and others are building crop-spraying and remote sensing vehicles that can help reduce chemical use and improve yields. It has been estimated that precision agriculture will account for about 80 percent of the U.S. market for commercial UAVs.
Last year the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority issued the first exemption for agricultural drone use outside of university research. DJI released its eight-rotor Agras MG-1 last year, with a 10-kilogram tank, followed by a thermal-imaging camera for remote sensing. It’s up against companies like Yamaha and local rivals like Shenzhen MicroMultiCopter Aero Technology Co.