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New $15,000 drone allows Bonneville County Noxious Weeds department to spray faster in difficult areas

A drone flying demonstration above the 1st Street gravel pit in Ammon Thursday morning. See it in action in the video above. | Rett Nelson,
AMMON – The Bonneville County Noxious Weeds department and county commissioners were at the 1st Street gravel pit in Ammon Thursday morning to show off their new DJI Agras T10 Agriculture Drone.
The noxious weeds department purchased the $15,000 drone last fall and started using it in the weed spraying operation about three months ago.
Superintendent Jud Elkington tells the drone is one of several methods they use to spray weeds, and it’s allowed them to save time and spray in places they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
“A lot of times in gravel pits, we’ve struggled getting weeds on top of mounds or even higher just because of the loose gravel. The only way we’ve been able to spray them in the past is to hike (on top of them) and bring a long hose with us,” Elkingston says. “We can pull the drone out and spray them in 15 minutes.”
He and pilot Heath Cook are the only people licensed to fly it. It uses about two gallons of chemical spray per acre. There’s a charging station inside the county trucks that charges the battery in about the time it takes to fully charge a cellphone.
The target spray area is mapped out like GPS coordinates and preprogrammed into the drone preflight. Once it’s programmed, it will fly back and forth on its own. Sensors allow it to detect obstacles or people in close proximity, which causes it to stop. Elkington says this feature helps keep operators safe.
He and the team are still trying to figure out a lot of its capabilities, but Elkington says it’s designed to spray between 12 and 15 acres per hour.
“That may depend on the terrain as well. The steeper the terrain, the higher it has to go to fly up a hill. It’s going to use more battery life (in those scenarios) and won’t be able to spray as much,” says Elkington.
Elkington is thrilled with what they’ve been able to accomplish since getting the drone. He’s excited about the possibilities going forward as they become more familiar with it.
“We’re really excited to be able to take care of some of these hillsides in Bonneville County, whether it be in the Swan Valley or Bone area. (These and other areas) are very rocky and hard to get to,” says Elkington.
See the drone in action in the video above.
The post New $15,000 drone allows Bonneville County Noxious Weeds department to spray faster in difficult areas appeared first on East Idaho News.

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