Yamaha Waits for FAA Approval on Agricultural Drone

Ryan Billing and Ken Giles from U.C. Davis and co-pilot Katsu Nakamura from Yamaha Motor Co. prepare to demonstrate the RMAX drone in Oakville, Calif.

OAKVILLE, Calif.–An unmanned helicopter took flight, Wednesday, hovering about 20 feet over a vineyard in California’s Napa Valley, spraying water as it steadily moved up and down the rows of grapes. The helicopter, made by Yamaha MotorCo.7272.TO -0.28%, has been used in Japan for about two decades to spray crops.

Typically the helicopter sprays pesticides, but this flight was only a demonstration. Yamaha is waiting to hear whether the Federal Aviation Administration will grant its RMAX drone a regulatory exemption that will let it operate commercially in certain areas of the U.S. On September 25, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that the FAA has granted the first exemptions for the commercial use of drones to six aerial photo and video production companies for use in Hollywood.

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