Chinese farmers faced with labor shortages are turning to crop-dusting drones. But this newfound love for the cost-saving devices may not be good news for farmers and consumers as a lack of regulations and industry standards may lead to the abuse of pesticides and fertilizers, experts warned…Full Article: Caixin Oct 2017

Key Points

  • From 2014 to 2016, according to the deputy director head of the Shenzhen UAV Industry Association, the number of crop-dusting drones in China rose from 500 to roughly 8,000. In 2017, this number is forecasted to reach 15,000.
  • From 2015 to 2016, according to China’s Ministry of Agriculture, the area of farmland sprayed by agricultural drones increased by a factor of 2.4 to 4.65 million acres.
  • Agricultural drone manufacturers include Shenzhen’s DJI Technology [founded in 2006], Guangzhou’s XAircraft [founded in 2007], and Guangxi Yunrui Sci-tech.

ChinaAg Comments

  • In September 2017, China’s Ministry of Agriculture announced the country would invest CNY 1.5 billion (USD 200 million) on training farmers. As a result, farmers will be able to register online for local and web-based training lessons. These lessons will include teaching farmers how to operate agricultural drones. During the same month, a drone, developed by Shaanxi Zhuangke Agriculture Science and Technology Company, was used to collect data for 10 hectares of kiwifruit orchards in Yangling, Shaanxi Province.
  • In June 2017, DJI Technology and Dow AgroSciences signed a MoU relating to crop protection drones and technology. Specifically, both companies will conduct joint pesticide application experiments on rice crops in the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, and Jiangxi.
  • In April 2017, DJI Technology announced its RTK (real-time kinematic) version of MG-1S agricultural drone (original version launched in November 2016) would be launched sometime from April to June 2017 at a cost of CNY 23,000 [~USD 3,383] per unit. The RTK version utilizes farmland positioning and pesticide spraying applications with the support of services from Qianxun.
  • In January 2017, China’s Vice-Minister of Agriculture classified drones as agricultural machinery. As such, the use of agricultural drones will be subsidized in targeted pilot regions. At the time, under 2% of China’s 122 million hectares of arable land utilized agricultural drones.
  • In November 2016, DJI Technology launched an upgraded version of its MG-1 drone, the MG-1S. As of November 2016, DJI Technology has sold more than 2,500 Agras MG-1 agricultural drones and controls 70% of the Chinese agri-drone (farm) market. The company has more than 200 sales service offices in China. Its new MG-1S agricultural drone will be available in 2017 for CNY 42,000 (just over US$6,000) per unit.
  • In September 2016, Chinese media reported that agricultural drones were being used on 26,000 mu [~1,733 hectares] of land in Ningxia Hui Region.
  • In June 2016, approximately 4,890 Chinese farms owned agricultural drones.
  • In April 2016, the Vice President of DJI Technology stated that DJI would cooperate with various computer chip companies, but would also “keep a close eye on chip technology development.” As result, DJI was looking into using Chinese-produced computer chips.
  • In March 2016, DJI Technology announced they would train 10,000 people across China to operate agriculture-specific drones. Additionally, the Shenzhen-based company stated it would establish 100 after-sales service centers and offer subsidies (to ~10,000 people) boost the use of drones on farms.
  • As of early 2016, the market penetration of agricultural drones was 50% in the USA and Japan, but only 3% in China (~4,000 agricultural drones in use as of early 2016).
  • In November 2015, DJI launched its eight-rotor Agras MG-1, an agricultural UAV that can hold 10 liters (~2.6 gallons) of liquid (e.g. pesticides) and spray four hectares of farmland every hour.
  • In August 2015, California-based Intel (world’s largest PC chipmaker) invested US$60 million in Yuneec International, a Hong Kong-based drone manufacturer.
  • Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Shenzhen, southern China, DJI Technology is a leading Chinese manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

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