FAA Clears “Drone Swarms” for Agriculture

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an exemption for “drone-swarm” agriculture, a method of seeding and spraying crops at a fraction of the traditional cost.

Hylio, a Texas-based drone manufacturer, successfully applied for an FAA exemption to allow fleets of drones weighing 55 pounds or more to fly together. It’s the first exception of its kind for machines that carry what the company calls a “meaningful payload” and makes the process competitive with traditional tractors and seeding rigs.

“On average, you’re spending a quarter upfront on the capital cost to buy the machinery, and the operating cost is about a quarter or maybe a third of what you’d spend for the more traditional stuff,” says Arthur Erickson, Hylio CEO.

Under previous rules, a single drone required a pilot and another person acting as a spotter. Because of weight limits in flight, it took a long time to cover large fields.

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