Posted: 03.04.2024 10:04:00

Drone of great capabilities

The President has repeatedly drawn attention to the need to introduce best practices in agricultural industrial and other areas. In this regard, drones stand out. They have significantly facilitated the work of border guards, rescuers, surveyors, environmentalists, among the rest. The Mazolovogaz branch of Vitebskoblgaz (Vitebsk regional gas enterprise) and the Vitebsk Zonal Institute of Agriculture at Belarus’ National Academy of Sciences in Tulovo have experience in using drones in Vitebsk Region agriculture. Moreover, they have already calculated the efficiency of using smart devices compared to conventional technology.

You can see everything from above

In order to get acquainted with the fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of the Vitebskoblgaz Unitary Enterprise, we are going to the village of Buyany, Vitebsk Region. In 2022, an educational and practical centre for precision farming was opened on the basis of the Mazolovogaz agricultural enterprise. For the third year, the DJI AGRAS T30 drone will circle over the farm fields. “It is a real hard worker here,” Aleksandr Korol, a 24-year-old Chief Agronomist-Agrochemist of Mazolovogaz branch noted with a smile. “After graduating from the Belarusian State Agricultural Academy, I got to Mazolovogaz. Here, I saw live how smart technologies they had talked about a lot at the university — autopilots in cabins of tractors and combine harvesters, agri drones — are applied in the agro-industrial complex. On behalf of my native enterprise, I learnt to become a UAV operator.” 
The introduction of drones at Mazolovogaz began with a multispectral drone. The images obtained by the drone from above demonstrate how winter grains have overwintered. This approach differs drastically from the conventional going around the fields. “We can see the exact full-scale picture,” the hereditary agrarian continued. “The boundaries of the areas that need to be replanted are plainly visible, including in hard-to-reach areas, where tractors simply cannot get close in early spring — otherwise, you will get bogged down.”   
In order to align crops developing in different ways, drones carry out spot-on treatment with a stimulating drug CAM [carbomide-ammonium mixture] on the farm. The AGRAS T30 tank is designed for 30 litres. Drone production per day is about 70-110 hectares. One filling is enough for six hectares, when working with concentrated drugs. The drone comes with three batteries, each with enough charge for 12 minutes of operation. 
It is convenient that drones can work at night. Special sensors copy the terrain and keep the set height. Thus, the height when flying over winter grains and rapeseed is 2.5 metres. At Mazolovogaz, they used UAVs at night for desiccation of rapeseed — that is, to dry out the crop. In rainy 2022, 300 hectares of crops were treated on the farm, dried from the air around the clock. The efficiency of rapeseed desiccation with the help of drones is close to one hundred percent. The ground sprayer, when carrying out the same treatment, touches crops, which results in the 15-20 percent falling-off. In contrast, the drone minimises losses.
Drones are also indispensable in the fight against Sosnowsky’s hogweed. For Vitebsk Region, which suffers from this dangerous plant more than other regions, the topic is very relevant. At Mazolovogaz, the green ‘terminator’ is successfully confronted by drones even in hard-to-reach places. Over the past year, the farm treated 10 hectares with foci of hogweed.

Anna Savelenok, Ivan Chekalov and Polina Minova              

In aid of science

On April 12th, Cosmonautics Day, the flight season will be opened at the Vitebsk Zonal Institute of Agriculture of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus in Tulovo. The company, which is engaged in seed production, has about 1,500 hectares of its own land. The purchased Belarusian drone with the prefix ‘agri’ is of great help. 
Deputy Director for Commercial Affairs Sergei Kolotkov shared the details, “A small drone, which we use to monitor fields, appeared in our company about four years ago. At the end of last summer, it was joined by an intelligent agricultural complex А60-Х.”
“This drone with a 20-litre tank was purchased from the China-Belarus JV Aviation Technologies and Systems. While the state registration was being done, the device was being tested in the fields,” Oleg Ravbis, Scientific Secretary of the Zonal institute, continued the topic. “The National Academy of Sciences of Belarus allocated the funds for the necessary purchase. Together with the charging station, the drone cost us around 80,000 BYN. It is cheaper than imported analogues, while its characteristics are no worse.” 
Thanks to the А60-Х, it is possible to treat up to 80 hectares per day from the air. A useful purchase in Tulovo will most likely be sent first for herbicidal treatment on a grain area. Also, they will engage the drone to study the use of fungicides on potatoes. The scientific work of one of the Institute graduate students is dedicated to this topic. Oleg Ravbis added,  “Original seed production is an expensive and complex process. When cultivating high quality potatoes (super elite), any contact with the wheels of agricultural machinery is extremely undesirable. This may damage the prototypes or infect them. The drone is a real find for us!”
Three specialists of the Vitebsk Zonal Institute have been trained as operators of civilian UAVs. Among them is 28-year-old Ivan Chekalov, Head of Department for Grain and Leguminous Crops, “I did not expect that studying at the DOSAAF Training Centre in the capital would be so captivating.” An agronomist by education, Ivan has discovered a completely new sphere of ‘high flight’ for himself. The most interesting thing was learning how to make a flight map, as well as the basics of safety.
Aerial manoeuvres over the field are not always predictable. Technology is a tricky thing. The drone might collide with an obstacle, such as a tree or a bird.

The service centre that, in case of necessity, will help to return ‘wings’ to the Tulovo ‘bird’ is located in the Great Stone Industrial Park. The purchase of necessary parts and technical support in Russian are guaranteed.
The routes of the flying assistant are born not in the field but in the office, on the computer. A young agronomist shows colourful maps on the monitor, “Last spring, we digitised the fields with an accuracy of 2-3 centimetres. The terrain, site boundaries, pillars — everything was taken into account. Of our 1,500 hectares, we plan to treat a third with the help of the agri drone. 
Conducting chemical treatment by drone is 2.8 times more efficient than using a tractor. After all, the wheels of machinery take out of crop rotation up to 10 percent of the land plot. Therefore, the use of drones is about beautiful fields and greater preservation of crops.”
Young agronomists Anna Savelenok and Polina Minova study flight maps. “We study in absentia at the Belarusian State Agricultural Academy and are keenly interested in new developments in agriculture. Agri drones are the future,” Anna assured.
Polina, a 21-year-old young specialist, continued the topic, “If offered, I will willingly study to become a UAV operator. Agronomy is in my genes, from dad and mum. I love my profession. Modern technologies that are coming to the agro-industrial complex make the industry more attractive for young professionals.” 

By Anna Naumova