Helicopter helps farmers reach new heights
A NEWLY launched unmanned helicopter could have huge farming and weed control potential for the Northern Rivers - one of the most agriculturally diverse regions in the country.
Industry representatives from sugar cane, avocados, macadamias and coffee, as well as local farmers, land owners, DPI representatives and agriculture students gathered for a first-hand demonstration of the Yamaha RMAX unmanned helicopter at North Coast TAFE on Tuesday.
Show of capabilities
The 3.7m long helicopter, capable of carrying 28kg, took off from the green at the Wollongbar TAFE campus with a CASA certified operator using a remote control to demonstrate its flying and spraying capabilities.
TAFE agriculture head teacher Gary Zohrab said the unmanned helicopter would be beneficial to farmers managing small crops like vegetables and for pest control more generally.
He said the large number of gullies and abundance of weeds like camphor laurel on the Northern Rivers made some other methods of spraying difficult.
Developed in Japan
Yamaha sky division business development manager Liam Quigley said the RMAX helicopter was developed in Japan to combat high accident rates and chemical spray issues associated with rice farming on small plots in residential and urban areas.
Following huge success overseas, Mr Quigley said the company looked at adapting the technology to Australia, with a focus on weed and mosquito spraying, small crop work, coastal management and surveillance work in difficult terrain.
Hard to get at places
"The emphasis here is on hard to get at spots, steep wet rocky terrain, things that you don't want to drive a tractor over or you physically can't access, or it's too small or unique to fly a full size aircraft over," he said.
"We can spray two hectares in six minutes so it's really a time issue and that's without any compaction of the ground and there's no one at risk, there's no one standing in waist deep water spraying aquatic weeds or trying to wade through a sugar can paddock."
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said the unmanned helicopter could help alleviate the risks of people traversing difficult terrain for farming or weed identification and management.
"For the farmers around here, whether it's seeding or weed identification and flood time, when you cannot get traditional vehicles along areas of our north coast than I think it's got applications that we haven't even dreamed of yet," she said.
On the market
This is the first time users will be able to buy one of Yamaha's RMAX unmanned helicopters, including finance and insurance options.
New owners will be run through the CASA guidelines and pending approval will be able to operate the helicopter.