Ben­e­fits in un­manned spray he­li­copter

Matamata Chronicle - - What’s On - ABBY BROWN

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.

PHOTO: ABBY BROWN/ FAIRFAXNZ

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.

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