Yamaha Motor Corp. U.S.A. has announced the inaugural U.S. commercial operation of its RMAX remotely piloted helicopter for agricultural spraying.
The RMAX flight was completed this week in California for Napa-based Silverado Farming Co., a vineyard management company. The unmanned aircraft system (UAS) applied a fungicide for preventative control of powdery mildew – one of the most common fungal diseases affecting grapes and many other crops, explains Yamaha.
Yamaha says the U.S. debut of RMAX commercial services for the agricultural industry marks the culmination of several years of working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to receive appropriate certifications, as well as extensive field research with the University of California, Davis. A representative from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation was on hand to witness the flights.
“We’ve been diligently working toward this U.S. milestone for RMAX since 2012, when our research partnership with UC Davis began,” says Brad Anderson, a market development manager for Yamaha’s unmanned systems division. “It’s gratifying to have earned support from both the aviation and agricultural communities. RMAX provides a unique and effective solution for spray applications, particularly for grape growers with vineyards on slopes or difficult terrain.”
Last month, Yamaha opened a new office at the Napa County Airport to support RMAX commercial spray services for growers primarily located in Napa and Sonoma counties.
Brittany Pederson, a professional pest control adviser and viticulturist for Silverado Farming Co., says the RMAX provides a promising solution for grape growers in California’s wine country.
“We’ve followed the UC Davis research trials and evaluations pretty closely,” says Pederson. “The results of those trials and conclusions drawn from work at the Oakville Experimental Vineyards were pretty strong and gave us the confidence to begin our own experiments with the RMAX on privately owned commercial vineyards.”
In December, Yamaha received Part 137 Agricultural Aircraft Operations Certification from the FAA – the first for a UAS, the company says. The certification enabled Yamaha to begin agricultural spraying in the U.S., subject to approval by state and local authorities.
The RMAX has been in service internationally since 1997 and has logged more than 2 million flight hours treating agricultural acres. Today there are 2,500 Yamaha RMAX helicopters in operation, says Yamaha.