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Dropcopter recently received its Part 137 Exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate unmanned aircraft for spray operations in the United States. The company has new evidence to that its unique pollination capabilities can result in better crop yields and anticipates that its new exemption will result in additional research and ultimately new business as orchards look to tap into the company’s technology.
Last May, the company which is taking part in round two of the GENIUS NY competition, conducted a variety of pollination trials on apple orchards in Central New York. Its partnership with Beak & Skiff Orchards, (voted the best apple orchard in the United States), and Reality Research, resulted in the company conducting the first ever drone pollination of apples in the world.
The company recently released the results of their test pollinations, and the impact it could have on apple orchards. The company found it was able to target the largest “king blooms” while preventing smaller flowers from being pollinated. This is important given that when apple trees bloom, the largest flowers called the king bloom open first and turn into the largest apples. These command double the price at market. The secondary flowers that open a week after the king blooms produce smaller apples and reduce the quality of the overall crop. Orchards are forced to hand thin these fruit with manual labor, at a cost of more than $500/acre.
Dropcopter was able to pollinate the larger king blooms as soon as they opened, and then immediately netted the trees with a bee barrier to prevent further pollination.
In addition to producing bigger high-quality fruit, Dropcopter also enabled pollination to happen simultaneously across the orchard which resulted in apples growing at the same rate with a uniform size. This allows a farmer to harvest trees at one time, instead of multiple passes saving more labor cost. Lastly, The ability to customize the pollen type used yields superior color. This method is patent pending and the results are illustrated by the apples marked in green.
“The low altitude, and rural environment of farmland needs to be reexamined as a place where drone integration is pushed” said Adam Fine co-founder of Dropcopter. “We are very proud of our accomplishments with this research. With our new 137 Exemption, we will prove that utilizing drones for this type of agriculture is not only safe, but profitable for farmers and orchard owners across the United States.”
The company plans additional tests in walnuts, avocados, and stone fruit. They are currently raising capital, and plan expansion into foreign markets in 2019. To learn more, please visit www.dropcopter.com.
Dropcopter is the world’s first automated pollination service commercially available. We use unmanned aircraft to pollinate Orchards, increasing crop set and yields. In periods of Bee scarcity or low activity, Dropcopter can replace bee pollination with a reliable fast and profitable alternative. Dropcopter can operate in the cold and at night when bees cannot, doubling a critical two-week bloom window for Orchard Growers.