Autonomous drone-based transportation startup Volocopter has revealed its first partner for its new VoloDrone industrial and commercial electric vertical take-off and landing craft: John Deere. The agricultural and industrial heavy equipment company is working with Volocopter on a VoloDrone-based aerial crop-dusting system.
VoloDrone, which Voloctoper unveiled at the end of last month, has 18 rotors and a fully electric power system that can provide up to 30 minutes of flight time for the aircraft, and carry up to 440 lbs. It’s designed to operate fully autonomously along a set path, or be piloted remotely for manual control if needed. John Deere is equipping the VoloDrone with a sprayer and tank array mounted to its cargo connection points, which will be able to dispense pesticides, liquid fertilizer, anti-frost agents for unseasonable inclement weather and more. Both partners also see potential in applications like sowing seeds for new crops from the air.
The VoloDrone is potentially a better, more precise and more cost-effective alternative to using a helicopter for these applications, Volocopter says. They’ll be working with John Deere to test and prove that out with initial pilots to be conducted during the next agricultural growing season.