The federal government has granted its approval for a new unmanned pesticide drone that reports indicate will soon start dumping chemical herbicides and other crop-related substances from the sky.
The helicopters, designed by Yamaha Corp. U.S.A., have an empty weight of only 141 pounds, according to a Federal Aviation Administration document,[PDF] and they don’t require a human pilot. Multinational corporations like Monsanto can just load them up with Roundup and send them on their way.
“Yamaha unmanned helicopters are designed for a wide range of industrial and research applications,” reads an official brochure for the new technology,[PDF] which lists “precision agriculture,” “spraying” and “seeding” as potential uses.
“Your eye in the sky offers cost effective, accurate and efficient spraying with zero soil compaction,” it adds.
Here you can see the “RMAX” unmanned helicopter in action as it shoots chemicals down on crops:
Unmanned drones for use in chemical agriculture represent largest civilian drones ever approved by FAA
Federal regulators were initially hesitant to approve the, drone but they eventually caved, granting a Section 333 exemption to the civilian drone on May 1. Steve Markofski, a spokesman for Yamaha Corp. U.S.A., told the Associated Press this in response:
“I certainly understand their cautious approach. It’s a daunting task given our airspace is complicated.”
Prior to this approval, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had only issued exemptions for much smaller drones weighing less than 55 pounds. In this case, the RMAX will be allowed to operate with a maximum payload of 218 pounds.