The Napa Valley’s winegrape vineyards, with their relatively small plantings, adjacent development, and often hilly terrain, offer similar challenges and opportunities. The mini-helicopter can go where a standard-sized helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft could not go and, in some situations, with less risk to the operator than a tractor-drawn spray rig.

Giles noted that some area winegrape growers have expressed interest in possibly using the helicopter not only to apply pesticides and herbicides but also to take aerial pictures of their vineyards to identify sites where the vines need special care or to better determine the optimal harvest time.

Recently, remote-controlled aircraft have been receiving public scrutiny because of their growing use for military, intelligence and law-enforcement purposes, and Giles appreciates those concerns.

“As a citizen, I share those reservations and agree that we need to be very careful about how we use unmanned aircraft,” he said. “But with the color, size and noise of a motorcycle, this helicopter that we’re testing is anything but stealthy and would be a great disappointment to anyone hoping to use it for espionage or other covert purposes.

“And, our work is being conducted with the anticipation that the aircraft would be flown by the landowner or by someone hired by the landowner,” Giles said.  “In other words, that person would want the aircraft to be flying over his or her land.”

 

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