27 Apr

Aerial spraying: 4 drone-perfect scenarios

Have you thought about adding aerial drones to your weed control arsenal?

Using aerial drones for weed control is a relatively new application. So where do drones fit into your spraying toolkit? And what advantages do they offer?

Harness the capabilities of drone spraying to help your weed control programme

Here are 4 drone-perfect scenarios:

  1. When spray sites are difficult to access: Control weeds safely
  2. When you need precise spot spraying: Targeted control
  3. When you need an accurate spray record: GPS tracking
  4. When you need to minimise disturbance: Discrete and quiet

Let’s take a look at these in more detail…

1. When access to weeds is difficult or hazardous

Is your spray area difficult or dangerous to access?

Examples of valuable ecological areas that can be difficult and dangerous to access on foot for weed control include:

  • Wetlands. Foot access can be impossible through dense vegetation
  • Geothermal. Ground access is dangerous due to thermal activity
  • Sand dunes. It can be difficult to traverse back-dune vegetation

Areas such as these provide challenges for weed control with extra time, expense or risk (and possibly all three).

Provided that the operation is within the capability of a drone (line-of-site visibility and size of weed control area), aerial drone spot-spraying can be an effective and safer alternative to ground-based or helicopter operations.

2. When you need precise spot spraying

Some spray areas are sensitive, for example, sites with valuable plants or around waterways. You can’t afford mistakes. Using an aerial drone enables you to detect, map and control weeds with precision.

The blanket spraying of weeds can often encourage their re-establishment. Spot spraying, on the other hand, can pick out the weeds from desirable plants for enduring weed control.

The flight team can fly the drone over the target weeds and spray them with the same accuracy as by hand. No overspray, no rotor wash, no danger to staff.

3. When you need an accurate spray record

Killing a weed often provides a space for its seeds to germinate underneath. So, it is necessary to return to that precise location to check and control the next generation of weeds until its seed bank is exhausted.

An aerial drone has the ability to track everywhere the drone flies and where it sprays. This information is recorded in a GPS track file which can be kept as a record, and used to return to all weed control sites the following season. The spray track records also provide evidence of the flight and spray paths in case there are concerns from the public.

Aerial drone flights (purple) and spray release (yellow) are tracked as weeds (red) are targeted

Aerial drone flights (purple) and spray release (yellow) are tracked as weeds (red) are targeted

4. When you need to minimise disturbance

Worried about public perception (and complaints) about your aerial spray programme?

Using an aerial drone is a good alternative to using a helicopter when there are potential issues with public perception, noise, or spray drift.

It could be you need to spray in an urban area, near waterways or other sensitive areas like orchards. With a drone there is less disturbance to neighbours and the public.

A spray drone can operate and spray relatively un-noticed and with precision. We’re not talking covert. We mean within aviation law and regional plans for aerial spraying, including notification. A drone is smaller, quieter and more accurate than a helicopter. This can be useful to manage public perceptions and minimise complaints while getting the job done.

Wait! Map your weeds first!

In a previous blog we talked about how to use an aerial drone to map and locate weeds to plan your spray program. For aerial drone spraying, having a map with GPS waypoints of weed sites that have already been detected is the best way to find and target them. The drone can then fly directly to the target weeds for control.

To ensure a well-timed and targeted weed control programme it is important to know the weeds that are present and their location. Ask yourself these questions:

  • When is the best time to detect species from the air – With leaf? When flowering? When other vegetation has died back for winter?
  • When is the best season to spray?
  • When do the weeds produce seed?

Talk to us

At Flightworks, we use aerial drones as a revolutionary tool to complement our expertise as ecologists.

Call me (Hamish) on 07 394 4394 if you have any questions about this article, or contact us if you’d like to discuss your project requirements.