Harper Adams University has won a prestigious honour from the Queen for its work leading innovation in agricultural engineering.
The university is to be recognised by The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in part for the implementation of UAS in agriculture.
The university developed a code of conduct for agricultural drone use which has been adopted by BASIS, the independent standards setting and auditing organisation for the pesticide, fertiliser and allied agricultural industries, as the framework for its professional courses in this area.
The university has also undertaken novel work with the RAF to determine how low flying aircraft and agricultural drones can operate safely in the same airspace, for which the RAF lead, Squadron Leader Gary James, was recently recognised with a prestigious flight safety award.
And key in 2017 was the creation of proof of concept for autonomous farming systems – with the Hands Free Hectare project successfully completing a world-first trial to grow a crop of barley on a hectare of land using agricultural robots and drones, and generating world-wide interest and debate in how autonomous systems could assist food production.
Vice-Chancellor Dr David Llewellyn said: “It is a huge honour to be recognised with the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. It is a tremendous achievement by our staff and students and reflects the leading role we have taken in the development of agri-technologies in recent years.”
Recently, an expert from the university urged grassland farmers that there are significant cost savings to be made by using drones to identify where herbicides are needed in arable sector.
Dr Ivan Grove said that drones can be used to map where weeds are and this information can be imported into sprayers to apply herbicides only in the affected areas.
He told Wales Farmer: “It is only a matter of time before commercially available spray drones, once registered for aerial application in the UK, will apply the products.’’
Dr Grove believes that accurate and targeted herbicide applications can reduce the amount of pesticides used and have significant environmental and economic benefits.
He added that farmers must be aware of the legalities of drone usage. “If there is a financial gain from using a drone, and if it is being used to improve grassland through weed control that would be the case, then a permission for commercial operation is needed.’’