AT the cutting edge of technology, remote-controlled, unmanned aircraft wowed onlookers with their spectacular displays at this year’s Heritage Bank Ag Show in Toowoomba.
With the versatility to conduct aerial spraying, seeding, overhead monitoring and photographic tasks over all terrain without putting operators at risk, Yamaha’s RMAX unmanned helicopters offer a range of agricultural and civil applications.
For field day visitor and Sunshine Coast-based project manager Peter Robinson, the multi-use craft open up a host of new opportunities.
Mr Robinson, who oversees infrastructure work for the main roads and resources sectors from Cape York to Mackay and west to the Northern Territory border, said the technology was “the way of the future”.
“There are a number of fronts we would use it for,” he said.
“Firstly, it has application for seeding because with main roads and the mining sector we have to be environmentally conscious.
“At present when we do seeding it is usually at the wrong time of year at the end of the dry season as we have to miss the wet season, and it is a waste of money.
“With unmanned helicopters, they can get in during the wet and seed the areas and it is cost effective. They will be able to get into areas where we can’t get into with quad bikes or seeding machines.”
Yamaha’s national sky division sales manager, Mike Johnson, said unmanned helicopters were first conceived in 1983 by Yamaha in Japan where they were used for spraying rice paddies.
There are now 2400 in operation in Japan and another 100 in South Korea.
“They have been in Australia two years and there are four units in commercial operation,” he said.
Mr Johnson said there was a big future for the craft in Australia, particularly for weed spraying operations in hard-to-get-to sites.
“Noxious weeds alone in Australia cost the Australian economy four billion dollars a year,” he said.
“Even if we got 10 percent of that it would be very nice.
“We believe there is enough work in Australia for 50 of these units just with noxious weeds.”
Mr Johnson said Australia had strict licensing and compliance regulations governing the use of unmanned
aircraft, which effectively meant the industry would be limited to commercial operators.
“So Yamaha in Australia attracts franchisees who are trained, certified and licensed, then we lease them the aircraft for commercial spraying,” he said.