Crop Spraying Drone Used to Paint Roof


A farmer from Norfolk, England, recently used a crop spraying drone to whitewash the glass roofs of greenhouses, paving the way for a potentially safer method of paint application. Chris Englington, who also runs technology firm Crop Angel, originally intended to use the agricultural drone for crop protection and other chemical services, but sprayer drones require a permit in United Kingdom airspace.

According to its website, Crop Angel specializes in the delivery of agricultural services using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, as one of the first companies to offer crop spraying drones in the U.K. Aerial applicator drone service intends to include:

  • Bracken control;
  • Amenity area management (e.g. parks, golf courses);
  • Fruit and vegetable crop protection;
  • Spot spraying (e.g. black grass); and
  • Mapping and survey work.

The company reportedly employs specialist staff who know drones, are certified CAA drone pilots and hold over 40 years of farming experience. It is working in conjunction with research partners and required authorities to deploy the technology.

However, while Englington is still not permitted to drop agro-chemicals from the air, an updated license allows him to apply for permission to drop items such as seeds or water. He has demonstrated these services at agricultural shows.

But, after an “emergency call” from horticultural greenhouses in Lincolnshire, Englington reportedly created a new market for the technology.

“We cannot do chemicals, but we can do whitewash,” Eglington said. “We did a trial, but a few days later I had an emergency call asking if there was any way we could come back and put the whitewash onto these greenhouses because the Health and Safety people said you cannot let men go up there, so you will have to find another way of doing it.”

Englington noted that the greenhouse was getting too hot, even with the windows open. Plants in one greenhouse were dying due to the heat, and staff were working in the overheating conditions. However, workers could not go up on the fragile glass roofs.

To remedy this, the company used the drones to spray a 16:1 dilution of white paint on the roofs of the greenhouse. The whitewash was used to slow down the penetration of the sun.

“Obviously it is much safer than having men up there, and it is three times faster, so it does not disrupt the workflow of people working in the glasshouses,” he added.

After “pulling out all the stops,” the company was able to whitewash two greenhouses in two days. Englington said he believes his firm will attract more enquiries for this service, but he “would rather franchise it to other people, provide the kit and let them get on with it.”

Other Recent UK Drone Tech

Last year, Surface Corrosion Consultants (Belfast, Ireland) announced its investment into unmanned aerial vehicles for monitoring and inspecting corrosion for its clients across the United Kingdom and much of Europe.

“UAV services relating to the inspection sector has seen huge advancement in recent times as companies begin to understand the benefits of incorporating UAV inspection into their maintenance and repair budgets,” said Surface Technical Director Rab Grainger.

“UAV inspection reduces days, weeks and sometimes months of planning associated with the logistics of shutdowns and manned inspections,” continued Rab. “Surface inspectors have years of experience in the Coating Industry which means we know what to look out for and we can implement a real plan to support the next steps to protecting an asset.”

The service, Surface reported, will be combined with the company’s in-house digital solution, Surface Asset Management, which digitally streamlines all aspects of coating and NDT inspection to simplify the surface asset management process. SAM can also generate immediate survey reports as the UAV is in mid-flight, removing the need for manual data input.

According to the company, the service will offer long-term solutions such as reduced overheads and operations costs, as well as a host of health and safety benefits compared with the traditional manual inspection survey methods.

In upcoming inspections, Surface plans to use the UAV technology to inspect assets, both onshore and offshore, with the use of onboard cameras, acting as an inspectors’ eyes in high resolution, 4K imagery.


Tagged categories: Agriculture; Coating Application; Cool Coatings; Cool roof coatings; drone; Drones; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; Europe; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Paint application equipment; Program/Project Management; Roof coatings; Spray equipment; Technology; Tools & Equipment; Whitewash

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