Autonomous drone fleet defoliates China crops

XAG Drone Spraying Cotton Defoliate in Xinjiang

Agriculture technology company XAG has initiated a drone spraying operation for the third consecutive year in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Since late August, over 1,500 drone pilots and 1,000 crop protection teams with approximately 3,000 sets of drones have sprayed defoliant on cotton crops.

This is the world's largest cotton defoliation operation that involves the use of fully autonomous drones.

A million hectares of cotton fields have already been defoliated.  It is estimated that the entire operation will exceed 1.3 million hectares, a 200% increase compared to 2018.

Defoliation is the harvest-aid operation which applies chemical to accelerate cotton boll opening and encourage cotton leaves to drop from plants within a specific short period time.

Traditionally, cotton was mostly handpicked, but this has no longer been a viable solution due to the rising labor cost and the shortage workers.

In China, Xinjiang constitutes 85% of the nation's total cotton production.

XAG says its technology can precisely deliver pesticides and fertilizers down to the centimeter.