By Leonardo Gottems, Reporter for AgroPages
According to information from the National Union of Agricultural Aviation (Sindag), the use of remotely-piloted aircraft (RPA) or drones in crop spraying should be regulated this year in Brazil.
“The expectation is that the text of the Normative Instruction (IN) related to drones will enter public consultation in January. If it all goes well, the standard should be published in March,” revealed Thiago Magalhães Silva (President of Sindag), who he is a lawyer, pilot and businessman in agricultural aviation.
According to Silva, together with representatives of the drone sector, federal inspectors and other relevant professionals, Sindag has been participating since the first half of 2019 in drafting a regulation for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA) related to the technology, adding that a draft was presented in the middle of last year.
According to the document, which is being analyzed by the ministry's Legal Department, the new IN will cover drones in the Class III category (up to 25 kilograms) in the regulations of the National Civil Aviation Agency (Anac). The other categories, which are Class I (RPAs over 150 kilograms) and Class II (over 25 and up to 150 kilograms), will continue to follow IN 02 for 2008, which dictates the rules governing agricultural planes and helicopters. All spray drone operators, whether individuals or companies, must also be registered with MAPA.
Some items from IN 02 will continue to apply to smaller drones. An agronomist responsible for operations and an agricultural technician with executive training in agricultural aviation must also accompany field missions. “Drone operators will also have to write technical reports for each operation using agricultural aircraft. These reports must be kept for at least two years and be available during any inspection,” explained Silva, who considers the draft as satisfactory.
“We see drones as a tool with great potential for increasing operational capacity and even diversifying the operations of aero-agricultural companies. So much so that in 2017, Sindag became the first aero-agricultural authority in the world to have a drone company among its membership,” he added.
Silva noted that, despite their low load capacities, remote-controlled devices are suited for use in the treatment of crops, citing successful examples of spraying on large areas. However, he also noted environmentally-sensitive issues and other related challenges.
“We must consider a generation of multispectral images, which for now is a good niche for drones in agriculture. These can be used to identify and analyze areas needing specific intervention, whether the addition of nutrients or the elimination of pests, as well as the need for other services, such as counting healthy plants to accurately estimate the harvest. They are also important to insurance companies or those who operate in the future market,” he said in conclusion.