In today’s society, the rise of modern technologies brought significant advancements in many industries. Such developments can also be seen in the agricultural landscape when farmers can now grow crops using ICT controlled technologies for the application of various farm inputs like fertilizer and pesticides.
One of the innovations introduced is the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), more commonly known as drones. Accordingly, agricultural drones offer immense relief to farmers through precision crop spraying that is five times faster than traditional crop spraying. The technology aids farmers to easily monitor their crops instead of them navigating their vast land on foot.
Agricultural drones can also be used to spray pesticide formulas and liquid fertilizers for the control of crop pests, diseases and weeds, and supplement crop nutritional requirements. Further, agricultural drones have the ability to perform irrigation and disperse seeds from the air.
To establish a safety procedure on its use, FPA issued Memorandum Circular No. 28, otherwise known as “Good Agricultural Practices for Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) for Use as Spraying,” signed by Executive Director Wilfredo Roldan on October 30, 2018.
The Order reiterates FPA guidelines on the safe and proper use, storage and disposal of fertilizer and pesticides, in connection to the application of said equipment. First aid kit and necessary gears for personal protection should be always available and utilized.
The Order requires spray drones to be equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS), target flow controllers, and flow meters to ensure its functionality and control. Its fying altitude is recommended to be one to three meters above the crop canopy.
To avoid pesticide dispersion to other areas by air, operators are advised not to spray when there is an upward air movement or when the temperature makes pesticide solutions to evaporate. Signages should also be installed in strategic locations to warn the public and surrounding communities of spraying schedules.
Further, operators will need to accomplish a Drone Spray Final Report (DSFR) within 48 hours after spraying and keep it for a period of two years. Information such as the date and time of application, crop sprayed and target pest, pesticide used, and the type of drone used shall be reflected on the report.
Spray drone controllers are required to get a license to operate commercially from the Civil Aviation of the Philippines (CAAP). Only FPA-registered products for drone application should be used.
Finally, the Order imposes that only those who have undergone training are allowed to operate spray drones.