In May, Yamaha Motor became the first company to secure permission to fly a crop-spraying drone in the US that resembles a helicopter and is called RMax. It was the largest commercial drone to win approval from the Federation Aviation Administration, with a body that is 2.7 metres long, 1.1 metres tall, and weighs 64kgs.
Currently, unmanned aerial vehicles used for commercial purposes are banned in the US unless a special exemption is obtained from the FAA. Yahama, which already sells agricultural drones in Japan, South Korea and Australia, hopes the FAA exemption for the RMax in the US will not only unlock this market but also those in European countries.
“Our drones work well in spraying pesticides and fertilisers on slopes so we’re aiming for vineyards at Napa Valley in the US and Champagne in France,” says Osamu Ishioka, Yamaha’s senior general manager.
Yamaha, the world’s second largest motorcycle maker, has been developing drones for about three decades, prompted by a request from the Japanese government.