Hylio scores federal approval for crop spraying drones in large-scale farms

By Staff
3 Min Read

Dive Brief:

  • Hylio has received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to swarm drones carrying a payload above 55 pounds, laying the groundwork for the tech to become integrated into large-scale farming operations.

  • The Texas-based startup said it’s the first U.S. company to receive a federal exemption under Section 44807, which allows up to three drones to fly at once using just one pilot and no visual observer.

  • With this update, farmers using Hylio’s drones can spray wide swaths of acreage and tackle applications previously impossible with traditional equipment, according to its website.

Dive Insight:

The FAA exemption lays the groundwork for other companies to receive the same permissions as Hylio, allowing for innovation for high-acreage farms. 

Drones are less risky to use than planes and can reach areas that grounded tractors and equipment cannot. Considering safety and labor reasons, the FAA approved Hylio’s request for exemption on Feb. 27.

“Because of their size, speed, and maneuverability, [unmanned aircraft] may be better suited for operations in confined areas where roadways, obstructions, or nearby structures result in increased risk,” the FAA said in its decision.

The company last summer filed for a commercial exemption to fly up to three Hylio AG-230, which individually can carry up to 8 gallons and cover 50 acres per hour. As part of the request, the startup also sought flexibility to operate this fleet, or “swarm,” of drones at night.

The drones offer more precise chemical application at a lower cost than traditional equipment, according to the company.

“On average, operating cost is about a quarter or maybe a third of what you’d spend for the traditional stuff,” Arthur Erickson, Hylio’s CEO, told Fox News Digital.

The approval comes as more drones take flight. Guardian Agriculture last year became the first electric vertical take-off and landing system operator to receive commercial approval from the FAA. The startup is operating its SC1 model to spray crops in California’s Salinas Valley region.

Hylio’s models are considered unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), a broader category than eVTOL.

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