While unmanned aerial vehicles appear to be a rising, and new, idea in the United States, Japanese rice farmers have been using the technology for years as a way to spray their fields without concern for pesticide exposure. Yamaha Motor USA makes the RMAX remote piloted helicopter used in those rice fields, and soon they could be flying over U.S. fields too.
Yamaha announced today that it has received Part 137 Agriculture Aircraft Operations Certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. This is the first UAV to get this certification in the U.S., according to the company. The Part 127 certification is a first step in allowing Yamaha to begin ag spraying in the U.S. subject to approval by state and local authorities in areas where the machine will be used.
This UAV is specifically designed for ag spraying and weights just over 200 pounds with a full payload. The machine is best suited for high-value crops – think strawberries and oranges versus corn and soybeans. The company notes that RMAX is an alternative to spraying with a tractor pulled ground sprayer or a backpack sprayer with individuals on foot.
This UAV was first introduced in 1997 as the culmination of several earlier unmanned helicopter models designed and engineered by the company. Yamaha has been designing these machines since 1980 with the Rmax the latest version. There are more nearly 2,600 RMAX helicopters currently in use, and more than 2 million flight hours have been logged to date. About 2.4 million acres are being sprayed each year with these machines.
Comments rob Trester, head of corporate planning at Yamaha: “We appreciate the FAA’s Part 137 certification and we’re very excited to bring all the proven benefits and advantages of the RMAX to the agricultural customers here in the U.S.”
The company expects to start spray service operations during the 2016 growing season.