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Precision Agriculture in Agricultural Aviation. Jonathan Kelly. Agricultural Aviation. Started in 1921 in Ohio in a Curtiss JN-6 by Lt. John Macready spraying lead arsenate dust over catalpa trees to kill moth larvae Sprayed mostly dry chemicals in the early days, hence the name “cropdusters”

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agricultural aviation
Agricultural Aviation
  • Started in 1921 in Ohio in a Curtiss JN-6 by Lt. John Macready spraying lead arsenate dust over catalpa trees to kill moth larvae
  • Sprayed mostly dry chemicals in the early days, hence the name “cropdusters”
  • Used mostly war surplus aircraft (Stearmans), but today use specialized aircraft, such as Air Tractor or Thrush
  • Today ag aircraft are used for chemical application, fertilization, firefighting, and remote sensing
agricultural aviation1
Agricultural Aviation
  • Regulated by State and Federal Departments of Agriculture, as well as FAR part 137
  • Have come a long way in the past 10-20 years in developing better aircraft and systems to improve efficiency of aerial application
  • Major advances include GPS, flow rate controllers, variable rate technology, and use of remote sensing
gps swath guidance systems
GPS Swath Guidance Systems
  • GPS was a big step towards precision in aerial application
  • Hemisphere Air (SatLoc) most used GPS by pilots
flow rate controllers
Flow Rate Controllers
  • Adjusts flow rate for groundspeed (constant-rate applications)
  • Adjusts flow rate for application rate required by management zone (variable-rate applications)
  • Houma Avionics, Inc., AutoCal II
  • Controls output from spray pump
variable rate technology in ag aircraft
Variable Rate Technology in Ag Aircraft
  • Uses a combination of GPS, Flow rate controllers and a hydraulically-operated pump
  • Kawak Aviation Technologies Hydraulic spray system
    • Changes rates in milliseconds
challenges in variable rate application using ag aircraft
Challenges in Variable Rate Application using Ag Aircraft
  • Spray Drift
    • Turbulence of airflow around the airplane
    • Height above canopy
  • Aircraft speed (120-150mph)– demands an extremely fast-responding system
  • Nozzles – need nozzles that keep the correct droplet size through changing boom pressures
  • Keeping costs down and maintaining feasibility for operators
prescription maps
Prescription Maps
  • Based on Satellite or Airplane imagery
  • Companies such as In-Time® produce variable rate prescriptions with amounts of chemical needed per rate change
  • Uses GIS programs to outline field boundaries
  • GIS shapefiles can be loaded directly into Satloc GPS
prescription maps1
Prescription Maps

Prescription Map

As-Applied Map

prescription maps2
Prescription Maps

Prescription Map

As-Applied Map

jones air rotating boom assembly
Jones Air Rotating Boom Assembly
  • Designed in Australia
  • Boom consists of flat fan nozzles that rotate through 110 degrees
  • Changes droplet size by changing nozzle position relative to the airflow
  • Used to control spray drift
direct injection variable rate application
Direct Injection Variable Rate Application
  • Also designed in Australia
  • Consists of 2 hoppers and creates a dual flow system
  • Directly injects variable rates of 2 different chemicals for variable rate application
  • Ex.- chemical can be a constant rate while the other is applied at a variable rate
remote sensing with ag aircraft
Remote Sensing with Ag Aircraft
  • Research being conducted in Stoneville, MS using ag aircraft as a carrier for remote sensing technology
  • Ag aircraft much easier to schedule than higher-flying airplanes, and avoids a lot of atmospheric interference
  • However, large images cannot be taken, so images must be stitched together
remote sensing1
Remote Sensing

Taken from 46 m (177 ft.) above canopy using digital video over cotton

  • Jones Air Rotating Boom Assembly
  • Cool video on aerial application in Australia
  • Barber, Lindsay. 2007. Precision Ag: The Future of Aerial Application. Agricultural Aviation. 34 (2).
  • Phone Interview with Dr. Steven Thomson, Research Agricultural Engineer, USDA-ARS, Application and Production Technology Research Unit, Stoneville, MS. On April 11, 2008.
  • Smith, L. A., and S. J. Thomson. 2005. Performance of an Aerial Variable-Rate Application System with a Hydraulically Powered Chemical Pump and Spray Valve. NAAA/ASAE Paper #: AA05-009, Washington, D. C.: NAAA.
  • Core, J. 2005. Agricultural aircraft offer a different view of remote sensing. Agricultural Research. 53 (3): 20-21.
  • Thomson, S. J., and V. J. Alarcon. 2001. Geo-referenced digital imaging and ultrasonic altitude sensing for agricultural aircraft – pilot controls, instrumentation, and system evaluations. ASAE paper #: 01-3098.
  • Thomson, S. J., and D. G. Sullivan. 2006. Crop status monitoring using multispectral and thermal imaging systems for accessible aerial platforms. ASABE paper # 061179.