August 9, 2023
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved an agricultural drone weighing 1,125 lbs – the largest unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to have received commercial approval.
Created for crop protection and cargo transport, the highly-automated Pelican Spray UAS was designed by manufacturer Pyka and is emissions-free.
According to Pyka, the drone is a safer and more efficient alternative to piloted spray aircraft, offering increased spray precision, reduced chemical usage and minimal environmental impacts.
The Pelican Spray drone can carry up to 540 lbs (70 gallons) of liquid and spray up to 240 acres per hour and is already in use on farms in Costa Rica, Brazil and Honduras.
"We are beyond thrilled to celebrate this commercial approval and regulatory milestone," said Michael Norcia, Pyka’s CEO. "Pyka's aircraft provide an essential tool for protecting crops, unlocking cost savings for growers, and reducing our impact on the environment.
"This commercial approval is the first step in enabling us to generate massive value for growers in the U.S., Latin America and other markets we operate in, while also laying the operational and regulatory groundwork for eventual scaling into uncrewed cargo operations worldwide."
"This is a significant win for Pyka and the agricultural community they serve,” said Lisa Ellman, chair of Hogan Lovells' Uncrewed Aircraft System Practice, which oversaw the deal. “Among other safety and environmental benefits, the use of highly-automated UAS like the Pelican to perform potentially hazardous aircraft operations can reduce the number of pilot fatalities that occur each year in the aerial agricultural spraying industry.”
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