Agras MG-1: The Agricultural Game Changer

Unique features on the farm-focused drone are improving unproductive and hazardous farming practices.

Employing workers to fumigate farmlands in Asia is often laborious, inefficient and dangerous – but new technology can help alleviate these problems. “We believe drones can be part of the solution,” says Charles Cao, Director of Business Development at DJI, which developed the Agras MG-1 octocopter. The unmanned aerial vehicle applies pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides.

Designed for regional needs

Europe and America have developed large-scale agricultural practices, often utilizing planes and large machines to treat crops, while “Eighty per cent of Chinese farmers are employing labor to spray crops by hand,” says Cao. Using farmhands to apply pesticides is predominant not only in China, but also in Korea, Japan, India and Africa, where small-hold farming is common.

Drones can solve the unique challenges faced by small farms: They can get closer to plants, reach inaccessible areas, and implement what Cao calls “precision agriculture.” The MG-1 has four nozzles under each motor, with the downward airflow accelerating spray and increasing reach. It also has a flight control system that scans terrain in real-time, combined with an intelligent system that optimizes the nozzles and flow rates to the drone’s speed.

The implications for developing countries are enormous. “Drones can complete 40 to 60 times of what one person can do,” says Cao. The MG-1 carries 10 kg of liquid, and is able to cover an area of 4,000-6,000 m² in just 10 minutes. Not only is this far more efficient, but it also vastly reduces the risk of exposing people to pesticides.

Built for farming

The MG-1 is built tough: It’s dust, water and pesticide proof. The drone is shielded from corrosive elements with a sealed body and integrated centrifugal cooling system, boosted with filters that keep out polluting elements while removing heat from components. The nozzles are resistant to wear and offer thousands of hours of operation without degrading. After operation, a farmer can simply hose the vehicle down with water.

The MG-1 is compact and easy to transport (it can be folded to fit in a car), while its carbon fibre build is light and durable. The MG-1 is thus highly suitable for an agricultural environment. Its user-friendly design and intuitive controls can be operated by one person. In addition, its remote is water- and dust-resistant – and the energy efficient display panel provides real-time flight information. Users can choose a smart mode where flights can be planned without mapping, and past co-ordinates are saved in case operation is disrupted.

“To be honest, DJI doesn’t have any competitors in terms of agricultural drone technology, and the biggest competitor is DJI itself,” says Cao. While that might sound glib, it means DJI works hard both in the lab and the field, learning from the very people using the technology: The farmers themselves.

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