Bern - Switzerland has become the first country in Europe to develop a process to authorize spray drones. According to the Swiss government, drones are well suited as replacements for helicopters in spraying pesticides. For more information see the IDTechEx report on Drones 2018-2038 .
According to a press release issued by the Swiss government, the first drones are being used to spray pesticides in Switzerland. Switzerland has developed an authorization process for this purpose, the first country in Europe to do so. The process takes into consideration the safety of Swiss airspace, the precision of pesticide spraying techniques in addition to protecting both humans and the environment.
The authorisation was requested by the Agroscope Institute, a government agricultural research body, and granted by the Federal Office for Civil Aviation. Agroscope argued that drones are a useful alternative to noisy and inaccurate helicopters when it comes to the spraying of phytosanitary products. Drones, they say, can fly lower and with more precision, thus avoiding wastage or misdirected spray. Comprehensive studies carried out by Agroscope showed that drift is slightly higher than with field spraying, but better than with blower sprayers. Based on the positive results, five federal agencies - the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation FOCA, the Federal Office for Agriculture FOAG, the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO have developed a process for the official certification of drones.
The development of the authorization process was initiated by Agrofly, a start-up based in western Switzerland, who applied for authorization to use a drone to spray pesticides in order to protect crops. After conducting several studies, the Swiss government discovered various advantages of spray drones in comparison with conventional aircraft. The Swiss government is of the view that Drones could be "directed with great precision and in automated fashion over areas of vegetation and crops". The airflow being directed back towards ground leads to less drift and the drone produces less noise overall.
In order to receive authorization, spray drones must, among other things, be able fly around a pre-defined flight path with a maximum of 50 cm deviation in automated fashion. Moreover, they must meet the "comprehensive flight safety regulations" defined by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA). Drift must be kept below a defined threshold as well.
The Swiss government states that, with this new authorization process, Switzerland is "clearly positioning itself as European leaders" in drone technology applications.
Source: Greater Zurich Area, Agroscope Institute
Top image: Agroscope