Autonomous Drones Used for Large-Scale Cotton Defoliation

By Mike Rees / 17 Oct 2019
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XAG cotton defoliant spraying drone

XAG, a global agriculture technology company, has announced that it has performed a large-scale Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) spraying operation in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The operation involved over 1500 drone pilots, 1000 crop protection teams, and around 3000 XAG P Series Plant Protection UAS, all helping local cotton growers to spray defoliant and boost crop yields.

Chemical defoliation of cotton accelerates the opening of the plant boll and the dropping of the leaves from the plant, allowing for rapid mechanical harvesting. Previously, defoliation was achieved manually or via tractors, both of which are less efficient and cause a certain amount of yield loss. XAG solved this problem by developing the P Series Plant Protection UAS, a fully autonomous drone that is designed specifically for efficient, precise crop spraying and can cover 10 hectares per hour, a rate that would require 60 human workers.

The P Series Plant Protection UAS utilises Real-time Kinematic (RTK) navigation to correct GPS errors and provide centimetre-level positioning for high-accuracy chemical delivery. The drones can precisely follow set flight paths and avoid overlaps and missing areas, which also successfully navigation around any obstacles.

The drones also feature an Intelligent Rotary Atomisation Spraying system, which atomises liquids into tiny droplets, and uses the downdraft from the drone’s propellers to ensure even spreading of the liquid among the leaves of the cotton plants. Compared to previous approaches, this technology conserves 90% agricultural water and 30% defoliant.

To date, approximately one million hectares of cotton fields have been defoliated using XAG’s Plant Protection UAS fleets. It is estimated that 2019’s coverage will have increased by 200% compared to that of the previous year.

Posted by Mike Rees Mike oversees all of our digital content at Unmanned Systems Technology. Our co-founder, with a background in engineering and digital marketing and a passion for unmanned technology, Mike is constantly on the lookout for exciting technical innovations within the unmanned sector. Connect & Contact