Chinese agricultural drone maker XAG together with pharmaceutical giant Bayer demonstrated its new artificial intelligence (AI)-powered Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) designed to streamline the crop-spraying process for farmers planting on rough terrain.

Why it matters: Accurate, fast, and efficient application of fertilizers and pesticides onto crops can save time, resources, and improve yields for farmers.

  • Distancing farmers from pesticides by shifting the work to drones can also lower their risk of poisoning.
  • Guangzhou-based XAG’s primary target in this demonstration is China’s fruit tree orchards, which, according to the company, are mainly developed and managed on hilly or mountainous areas and stand to benefit from smarter autonomous agricultural technologies.

Details: After creating a centimeter-level 3D model of the target field to identify individual trees and crop boundaries, XAG’s drones distribute fertilizer and pesticide.

  • According to XAG, seven hectares (around 17.3 acres) of fruit trees can be identified within one second by its AI tool, dubbed XAG Agriculture Intelligence (XAI).
  • The UAS was able to spray a 1.5-hectare plot in 10 minutes, typically a three-day job for human farmers.

Context: In another recent project alongside Bayer, XAG deployed its drones in swarms to fight the crop-devouring fall armyworm in Guangxi region in southern CHina, achieving a reported 98% mortality rate.

  • The company also utilized its autonomous technologies to decrease yield times for cotton through defoliation.
  • XAG’s total drone service has since September eclipsed 20 million hectares, up 400% from two years ago.

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