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Topic Discussion: Concern Over Chinese Plant Protection UAV And Explore Potential Opportunities
Aug 28, 2018



The use of UAVs for weed control and pesticide application offers new opportunities for site-specific, even plant-specific, control.  UAVs are already highly disruptive in agriculture, with a surge in popularity being driven by increasing affordability and ease of use. The market for agricultural UAVs is estimated to reach $4.4 billion in 2025, according to an industry report from Smithers Viscient, Ten-Year Forecast of Disruptive Technologies in Crop Protection to 2025.

Due to the unique advantages of plant protection UAV, consideration of China’s broad area, landform complexity and diversified cropping model, therefore the promotion and application of plant protection UAV have grown rapidly over recent years. The main agrochemical industry players have all made deployment in plant protection UAV service one after another, including Bayer, Syngenta, DowDuPont Agriculture Division, Wynca, Kwin, Veyong, Hailir, Zhengbang and Tianyuan. According to information, up until end of 2017, the total number of China’s agricultural drone reached 14,000 units and serviced area exceeded 6.67 million ha. (135 million ha. of cultivated land in China). However behind the plant protection UAV business, there are lots of hidden problems, among which key issues include:

1. Plant protection UAV-use formulation and adjuvant 

-    Pesticide used currently in plant protection UAV is mostly conventional pesticide, which is rather weak in reducing evaporation and drifting. On one hand, this is a waste of pesticide, and on the other hand pesticide drift causes damage. 
-    UAV crop protection requires higher activity and less quantity of pesticide while conventional pesticide is normally used in large amount and in high concentration, which may cause pesticide damage under high temperature.
-    There is limited market supply of synergist which is resistant to evaporation and drifting.

2.  Plant protection UAV 
- Higher price.
- Higher failure rate, higher cost of maintenance and short battery duration. 
- Higher time cost for maintenance.
- Machine operation method of different brands is different, which results in a different effect of weed, pest and disease control.

3. UAV operators and technique

-    Operator’s technical level is much varied.
-    Insufficient knowledge of drone operation, problems cannot be solved in a timely manner.
-    Lack of crop protection professionals, there is no ability to give accurate pest and disease forecast and take correct action of prevention and control.

4.  Plant protection UAV industry standard lagging behind seriously

However, the China National Agro-Tech Extension and Service Center has recently allied with various aerial crop protection-oriented business entities including agricultural drone manufacturers, pesticide and adjuvant production enterprises to conduct a series of aerial pesticide application experiments in the rice and corn demonstration areas for the control of insect pests and diseases. See more at 
here.

Professor He Xiongkui of the Spraying and Application Research Center of the China Agricultural University recently attended the plant protection UAV international standards workgroup conference (ISO/TC23/SC6 WG25) held in Hamilton, Canada, from June 24 to 29, 2018.  Mr. He delivered the theme report, “The UAV Chemical Application in China” and suggested an urgent formulation of series of international technical standards for plant protection UAV applications. The ideas in the report received a positive response from experts present at the conference. See more at 
here.

For the reasons above, AgroPages has recently initiated a topic for discussion – Plant Protection UAV. All industry experts and players in this field are welcome to join this topic discussion over the current situation, existing problems&solutions and future prospects of plant protection UAV.

All the feature articles on this topic will be included in the upcoming business magazine 
2018 Market Insight to be published this September and will be also published online in AgroPages.

Participants: 

Pesticide/formulation companies, adjuvant companies, UAV vendors (hardware and software), professional service company of plant protection UAV and plant protection UAV alliances/association.