How can Drones and Ag Aircraft Co-Exist Safely?
Working spray planes operate 500 feet and below, the majority of the time. While our Air Tractors are clearly visible with bright yellow paint and large wingspans, drones cannot be seen while flying over a field at 140 mph. Therefore, it is essential for UAV operators to follow the law and steer clear of manned aircraft.
When larger birds strike an aircraft, the windshield can be breached and the pilot incapacitated. Bird strikes can be lethal, a drone made of more than feathers, hollow bones, and sinew can be just as deadly. To ensure UAV operators do not accidently jeopardize the safety of manned aircraft, their Standard Operating Procedure should be to immediately land if another aircraft is in the area.
Drone operators can also be proactive and contact their local Aerial Applicator before launch to prevent potential conflicts. A few minutes on the phone could prevent an accident. UAV Operators can equip their machines with visible strobe lights so they can be seen and avoided by other aircraft.
A final step would be to purchase UAV Liability Insurance in case of an accident.
What are the New Transport Canada Regulations for Recreational Drone Operators?
As of March 16th, 2017 Recreational Drone Operators will face a fine of up to $3000.00 if:
1.) Drones weighing more than 250 grams are caught flying higher than 90 meters
2.) It is within 75 meters of buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals, or people
3.) The drone is being operated more than 500 meters away from the user
4.) The drone is being operated at night, in clouds or somewhere it is not visible
5.) The drone is being operated within 9 km of where aircraft take off or land, or a forest fire, or over forest fires, or over Emergency Response scenes or controlled airspace
6.) The drone is being operated without the Owners contact information marked on the drone
What Boom Height is Ideal for Aerial Application?
Before rudimentary pattern testing became available in the 1980’s, the common practice was to fly as low as safely possible. Pilots believed this benefited coverage and minimized drift. As pattern testing became more sophisticated and the quantity and quality of data increased, this was found to be a false assumption. The mechanical turbulence generated by the spray plane’s booms, nozzles, pump, tires, etc., was actually narrowing the effective swath and hindering spray deposition. Calibration experts like Dr. Denis Gardisser in the U.S. and Gary Moffat in Canada recommended aircraft fly higher to maximize spray performance. Modern ag planes, like the Air Tractor 502B, present the best combination of effective swath width, spray deposition, and lowered drift potential at a boom height of 8-10 feet above the crop canopy.
How Do You Minimize Off Target Drift?
Minimizing drift begins with our application equipment. Every twenty months our aircraft are calibrated with the latest droplet scanning technology. This ensures our nozzles are in good working order, providing uniform droplet sizes, and that the correct effective swath width is used. Both aircraft have drop booms installed; less drop time from nozzle to plant material equals less fine droplets. We also utilize oil based non-ionic surfactants, like LI 700, which reduce the formation of drift prone fines. The second area of drift management involves situational awareness of environmental conditions. The primary focus is thorough scouting of the spray area, identifying all drift concerns. Then we follow a few common sense guidelines. Spray only when the wind is blowing away from drift sensitive areas. Avoid inversions by spraying in steady winds ranging from 3 to 12 miles per hour. Spray only in moderate temperatures (8 to 25 degrees Celsius). Avoid spraying in early afternoon when relative humidity often drops well below 50 percent and wind speed typically increases.
Do You Still Apply Spring Herbicides?
Yes; we apply Spring Herbicides and seriously consider all enquiries. The caveat is, since our Associations drift insurance deductible was raised 400%, we have become more cautious when booking these applications. As always, all products must have an aerial use label and all fields must be carefully scouted for susceptible adjoining crops and shelterbelts/yards. If the proposed field has drift concerns on more than two sides we will, regretfully, turn down the booking. On a related topic, we can legally spray pre seed glyphosate in wet field conditions. In the past decade our pre harvest glyphosate/desiccation spraying has steadily increased as growers have come to appreciate the Aerial Advantage in managing harvest timing.
How Do You Determine Wind Speed & Direction From The Air?
There are many ways to gather this information, which is crucial to minimize off target drift and maximize our safety. The proliferation of farm based weather stations linked to mobile apps has helped immeasurably in making Go/No Go decisions. Once in the air, however, we watch dust, smoke, waves on water, flags in yards/oilfield sites, and our ground speed and heading to determine wind conditions at the field. Our ace in the hole is the aircraft smoker system. A button or switch on the control stick releases smoker oil into the engine exhaust pipe, creating smoke. After a 3-5 second burst during a trial spray run, we circle back and observe the smoke drift to determine wind speed and direction. We’ve learned to use our smokers sparingly near busy highways as well-meaning motorists have called emergency services believing we were in distress!
Why do we need crop protection products to grow our food and other crops?
World population continues to grow at a rapid pace. Today there are 6.6 billion people, but it is estimated there will be just over 9 billion by 2050. World food needs will double, but land area suitable for farming is not increasing. To produce future food, fiber, and bio-fuels and leave room for wildlife, we must increase production on the land we are now using. High-yield agriculture, which includes the use of crop protection products, benefits the environment by producing maximum crop yields from a small amount of land.
Like the human body, all plants need proper nutrition and protection from diseases and pests to attain maximum growth. This is true regardless of the farming system.
Consider the following quote from Dr. Patrick Moore, Greenpeace Co-Founder and Chairman and Chief Scientist of Greenspirit Strategies: "Pesticides are a key part of modern agriculture, contributing to the dramatic increases in crop yields achieved in recent decades. Pesticides are used in both organic and conventional farming. Through the use of pesticides, farmers are able to produce crops profitably in otherwise unsuitable locations, extend growing seasons, maintain product quality and extend shelf life. In fact, it's better pesticide science that has allowed North America to triple its food production while maintaining the same amount of forest cover as existed a century ago."
There's absolutely no wind at my place. How come you're not out here spraying?
The reason is that wind speeds of less than two miles per hour often indicate the presence of a temperature inversion, a weather occurrence whereby warm air is trapped above cool surface air. Normally air temperature decreases as altitude increases.
Spraying in these conditions results in a portion of the spray droplets becoming suspended in warm air aloft rather than settling into the crop canopy.
Droplets can remain suspended for several hours and drift several miles if wind speed increases in the interim, resulting in off target drift and poor efficacy of the spray application. Low to moderate wind speeds aid spray deposition and result in lower drift potential.
Therefore, taking into account the specific application and potential drift concerns, we prefer to spray in steady winds of three to twelve miles per hour.
Can you spray my land if wind turbines are on or near it?
All fields with wind turbines within a ½ mile would have to be scouted to determine whether we could spray them safely and effectively. Wind turbines are a safety hazard to ag-pilots for two reasons.
The first is their sheer size; loaded spray planes at the beginning of each load are not highly maneuverable and can’t out climb 360 foot turbines!
The second is the turbulence generated downwind of the blades, which, if not given a wide berth could force a loaded aircraft to the ground.
As the support structures are relatively narrow and the blades height above ground 120 feet, turbines adjacent to the field would likely prove a greater hazard than those in the field itself. Our turns would be wider to avoid downwind turbulence and therefore it would take longer to complete the job.
Prices for applications involving wind turbines would likely be higher to reflect both lost time scouting and spraying, as well as, the lower margin of pilot safety working around wind turbines entails.
How can an aerial applicator applying a fungicide at 4 gallons per acre achieve the same results as a ground applicator applying 20 gallons per acre?
The primary reason is the large amount of spray droplets per square inch generated by the aircraft's superior speed. If a ground applicator could drive his sprayer at 135 mph, he wouldn't need 20 gallons per acre! A secondary reason is the same pressure difference between the top and bottom portion of the wing that causes lift, drives spray into the crop canopy. This, combined with the weight of a heavily loaded airplane in ground effect, provides excellent penetration of the crop canopy. Excellent Coverage combined with Zero Soil Compaction = A Clear Choice!
When I purchase Crop Protection Products from FCA are my Chemical Company Program Rebates credited?
Yes, we submit sales transactions to Ag Collect on August, September and November 1st.
What information do you need from me when I book acres?
This varies depending on whether the application involves herbicides, fungicides, or insecticides but generally we find the following information helpful:
The bottom line is, the more information we have, the higher quality job we can do for you!
Some frequently asked questions will be addressed on this page!
If you have a question(s) about our company or any aspect of aerial application please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will reply A.S.A.P.
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