Hylio Achieves FAA Approval for Swarming Heavy Drones in Agriculture

Hylio drone FAA approvalHylio Sets New Precedent in Agricultural Drones with FAA Approval to Swarm Heavier UAS

In a landmark move for the commercial unmanned aerial system (UAS) industry, Hylio has become the first company in the United States to secure Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for swarming UAS that exceed 55 pounds. This approval permits Hylio to operate up to three of these heavy-duty drones simultaneously with a single pilot and without the need for a visual observer (VO), even during nighttime operations. This development, as announced in a Hylio company announcement, marks a significant step forward in the utilization of drones for large-scale farming operations.

Arthur Erickson, Co-Founder and CEO of Hylio, emphasized the significance of this achievement, stating, “This is a critical step forward in making UAS a viable option for even the largest-scale farming operations.” Erickson highlighted the potential impact on the agricultural sector, noting the capacity for increased productivity and the solution it offers to the labor shortages plaguing the industry.

The ability to swarm these larger drones promises a substantial boost in efficiency for agricultural tasks such as spraying and spreading applications. A single Hylio AG-230 AgroDrone, one of the models benefitting from this new exemption, can cover approximately 50 acres per hour. With the ability to operate three drones simultaneously, a single operator can now manage up to 150 acres per hour. This not only triples productivity but also allows for multitasking, such as planting seeds with one drone while others perform different treatments.

Hylio’s FAA exemption is specific to its drones that meet certain operational and safety criteria, which all of Hylio’s UAS models do, thanks to their control via the proprietary AgroSol GCS software. This achievement sets a precedent that other companies can follow, potentially expanding the capabilities and efficiency of agricultural drone use across the industry.

Hylio drone FAA approvalHylio drone FAA approval

Erickson also pointed out the long-standing limitation in the agricultural sector regarding drone swarming due to weight restrictions. “Swarming drones over 55 pounds has long been the desperately sought holy grail in the agricultural industry,” Erickson remarked. The exemption obtained by Hylio is expected to catalyze a significant shift in agricultural drone usage, enhancing the potential productivity of crop operations substantially.

Hylio is committed to supporting its customers through the exemption application process, offering guidance and assistance to navigate the regulatory landscape. The company’s innovative drone systems represent a significant advancement in precision agriculture, enabling targeted crop treatments that can lead to increased yields and efficiency.

This breakthrough by Hylio underscores the evolving landscape of agricultural technology and its potential to address some of the most pressing challenges faced by the sector today. With the ability to leverage heavier, more capable drones for farming operations, the future of agriculture looks increasingly efficient and productive.  Read the full waiver here (reference FAA docket number FAA-2023-1833).

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Miriam McNabbMiriam McNabb

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.

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