Yamaha Motor Corp., USA, has announced the inaugural commercial operation of its RMAX remote-piloted helicopter for agriculture spraying in the United States.
The first RMAX flight was held May 18 in California for Napa-based Silverado Farming Company and included a fungicide for preventative control of powdery mildew, a major fungal disease which affects grapes and many other crops.
For Yamaha, the U.S. debut of RMAX commercial services for the agricultural industry marks the culmination of several years working with the Federal Aviation Administration to receive appropriate certifications, plus field research with the University of California, Davis.
“We’ve been diligently working toward this U.S. milestone for RMAX since 2012 when our research partnership with UC Davis began,” said Brad Anderson, market development manager with Yamaha’s Unmanned Systems Division.
Anderson added, “It’s gratifying to have earned support from both the aviation and agricultural communities. RMAX provides a unique and effective solution for spray applications, particularly for grape growers with vineyards on slopes or difficult terrain.”
In April 2016, Yamaha opened an office at the Napa County Airport to support RMAX commercial spray services for growers primarily located in Napa and Sonoma counties. The Napa office is dedicated exclusively to supporting RMAX spraying services for agricultural industry clients.
RMAX is the only licensed unmanned aerial system, or drone, in Napa.
Brittany Pederson, a professional pest control adviser and viticulturist for Silverado Farming Company, said RMAX provides a promising solution for grape growers in California’s wine country.
Pederson said, “We’ve followed the UC Davis research trials and evaluations pretty closely. The results of those trials and conclusions drawn from work at the Oakville Experimental Vineyards were pretty strong and gave us the confidence to begin our own experiments with the RMAX on privately owned commercial vineyards.”
According to Yamaha, RMAX offers several benefits, including safe and reliable application of treatments with no soil compaction. RMAX can be faster and more efficient than current ground spray applications (both wheeled and foot).
The company says RMAX provides growers with more flexibility and accessibility to their fields, providing another option for applications.