Benefits in unmanned spray helicopter
A Matamata farmer was the first New Zealander to pay to get his hills spot-sprayed by an unmanned helicopter.
Murray Stewart had the Yamaha RMAX helicopter and crew on his Te Tuhi Rd farm from December 1 to 3. ‘‘I like how close it can get to the hills which means there is less spray drift,’’ he said.
He said for spot-spraying it was more cost effective than using a traditional helicopter. He had organised it after seeing it at the National Fieldays.
His usual spray contractor, who uses a normal helicopter, had initially been worried that it would render his services useless. When he saw it in action he realised that it would compliment his helicopter.
Yamaha business development manager of the sky division, Geoff Lamb, said the helicopters wouldn’t replace, but compliment, what contractors had, whether that was a helicopter or truck.
The guts of it is that it gets to the steep, tricky, inaccessible stuff like spraying dangerous aquatic weeds or accessing uneven ground, he said.
It was good for spot-spraying blackberry bushes, like it did on Stewart’s farm. ‘‘If it was a big amount then you would just bomb it with a normal helicopter,’’ Lamb said. The unmanned helicopter could also mean farmers would no longer have to lug heavy backpacks of spray up hills to spot-spray.
The helicopters could also be used to spray crops or spread seed in a more cost effective and accurate manner. Liquids and granules can be dispersed across a 400 metre range from the location of the operator.
Lamb said in the next five years the unmanned helicopters would become a normal sight on New Zealand farms. There are 28 helicopters sitting in a Japan warehouse earmarked for New Zealand and Australia. The company has had lots of interest and a Waikato contractor is looking at buying one. In Australia and America they are being used for state and council contracted weed spraying.
The Japanese government approached Yamaha in 1986 to make them to spray rice paddies, as the rural workforce was shrinking as the farmers aged.
Yamaha business development manager of the sky division, Geoff Lamb, with the remote controlled, twostroke engine 99kg helicopter which has a load capacity of 28kgs and is 3.63 meters long and 1.08 metres high.