US crop drone receives approval from FAA

Manufacturer Pyka has received approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate its Pelican Spray aircraft – a drone – for crop protection commercially nationwide. 

The approval, combined with an agricultural aircraft operator certificate, allows Pyka to commence commercial operations in the US. 

With the ability to carry up to 540 lbs of liquid and spray up to 240 acres (100 hectares) per hour, Pyka claims that its Pelican Spray aircraft offers increased spray precision, reduced chemical usage costs, and a safer alternative to piloted spray aircraft.

Pyka’s crop drone is already operational in several countries. The approval signifies the FAA’s commitment to supporting larger and more advanced agricultural UA operations, promoting the global drone market.

Michael Norcia, CEO of Pyka, expressed excitement about the commercial approval and regulatory milestone, highlighting the positive impact of Pyka’s aircraft on crop protection, cost savings for growers, and environmental conservation. The approval also lays the groundwork for potential scaling into uncrewed cargo operations worldwide.

Lisa Ellman, a policy advocate for the commercial UAS industry, praised the use of highly-automated UAS like the Pelican for agricultural spraying, as it can potentially reduce pilot fatalities in the aerial agricultural spraying industry.