Thu, Feb 01, 2018 - Page 4 News List

COA to offer guidance on use of UAVs in agriculture

TIME-EFFICIENT:A drone can spray 0.1 hectares in 15 minutes, but more research is need to determine if the procedure is effective, a government official said

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

As an increasing number of farmers are using uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) to spray pesticides on crops, guidelines and training sessions would be introduced this year, the Council of Agriculture said on Tuesday, adding that more studies and regulations on operation of drones are needed.

The council has been training technicians to help spray pesticides since 2008, and there are about 300 registered technicians nationwide, Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Director-General Feng Hai-tung (馮海東) said.

The council on Dec. 6 last year announced plans to reduce domestic consumption of pesticides from 9,139 tonnes per year — the annual average used between 2014 and 2016 — to 4,570 tonnes per year in 10 years.

The technicians would help prevent farmers abusing the highly toxic chemicals, Feng said.

An increasing number of farmers have expressed interest in using UAVs to spray pesticides, which they said would be more time-efficient than traditional methods, he said.

UAVs can be used, but issues about the legal operation and standardization of drone models, as well as their effectiveness in preventing plant diseases, need to be addressed, Feng said.

The Ministry of Science and Technology last week proposed a draft act on the use of drones to the Executive Yuan and expects it to enter legislative review in the upcoming session.

If the legislature passes the bill, the council can propose guidelines about aerial spraying of pesticides, Feng said, adding that the guidelines would focus on security risks.

“If a 25kg drone carries about 10kg of pesticide, it could spray 0.1 hectares in just 15 minutes, but whether it is effective needs more research,” Feng said, adding that speed is not the only factor to be considered.

Different formula are needed to reckon the effects of different pesticides in relation to their volume, he said.

However, operation of drones would not be regulated by the council, as it falls under the preview of the Civil Aviation Act (民用航空法) and operators might be required to obtain licenses, Feng said.

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