Drones come to the aid of ailing farm sector

Tech entrepreneur Devan Chandrasekharan has come up with a drone that helps in spraying fertilisers cheaply and effectively 
For representational purposes (Photo | EPS)
For representational purposes (Photo | EPS)

KOCHI: Sometime in January, the paddy fields of Alathur, a small village in Palakkad district, witnessed an interesting experiment. Three paddy fields, comprising 110 acres, were sprayed micronutrients using customised drones or unmanned aerial vehicles.  “The paddies were 50-65 days old, just before they formed the spikes,” said Reshmi M V, agriculture officer, who monitored the trial along with other officers. The results were stupendous. “The yield from one acre of paddy went up by a tonne where the drone was used,” she said. 

The agriculture drone was made by Kakkanad-based Rovonize Systems Pvt Ltd. Devan Chandrasekharan, its chief technical officer, has now moved out of the company and set up his own startup Fuselage Innovations Pvt Ltd at Maker Village-Kerala Technology Innovation Zone in Kalamassery, Kochi. Devan says agri-drones not only improve productivity but also reduce costs and wastage. For instance, if 300litre/acre of micronutrients were required in manual spraying, the quantity required is as low as 15 litres using the drones. “Using drones for agriculture increases the precision and efficiency with which farmers can work, and makes it easier to make informed land management decisions,” he said.

Fuselage Innovations has now made an agriculture drone with additional features. “Our drone engine has a capacity to fly for 30 minutes (with payload or liquid) and one-and-a-half hours without payload. “This is against five minutes by the battery-powered drone,” says Chandrasekharan. “Battery-powered drones have limitation up to five minutes maximum flight time, we changed the problem of limited flight time to 45 minutes of single flight time with one-litre fuel,” he said. Drone hybrid generator, a high-efficiency generator designed for multi-copters, is only 7.2kg, which is much lighter than any other generators. It is five times more efficient than other generators, said Devan.

Agri-drones are far better than the involvement of human labourers, especially for its high-precision use of fertilizers and micronutrients. Consider this: in addition to the quantity of fertilisers and micronutrients saved, there are labour costs reduced considerably, and the work gets completed in double-quick time. “We completed the spraying of one acre in 3-5 minutes. If it’s done manually, we would require five workers for spraying 20 acres,” said Devan.Fuselage Innovations is renting the drone for `800/day. “Two drones can complete spraying 100 acres in a single day,” he said. 

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