Aug 11, 2023
Pyka wins FAA authorization for largest automated drone

Drone manufacturer Pyka has received approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to commercially operate its zero-emission highly-automated Pelican Spray aircraft for crop protection nationwide.

Based in Oakland, California, Pyka constructs large-scale and highly-automated electric aircraft for crop protection and cargo transport.

With a gross weight of 1,125 pounds, Pyka’s automated uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) is the largest ever to receive FAA authorization for commercial U.S. operation, according to a news release.

PykaIn conjunction with an agricultural aircraft operator certificate, the FAA approval will enable Pyka to commence commercial operations in the U.S., bringing safety, environmental and economic benefits to American farmers and the greater public, according to the release. In 2020 alone, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported 54 aircraft accidents involving agricultural operations, including 12 fatal accidents resulting in 13 deaths.

“The FAA’s action to authorize Pyka’s operations signifies the agency’s commitment to enabling larger and more advanced agricultural UA operations that will save lives and advance American leadership in the $60 billion global drone market,” Pyka officials said in the release.

“With access to Pyka’s fixed-wing, highly-automated all-electric aerial application technology, American farmers and neighboring agricultural communities will benefit from a safer alternative to piloted spray aircraft, increased spray precision, reduced chemical usage costs, and minimized environmental impact,” according to the release.

Pyka’s Pelican Spray aircraft is the world’s largest and most productive agricultural spray drone and is already operational on farms in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Brazil. It can carry up to 540 pounds (70 gallons) of liquid and spray up to 240 acres per hour, according to the release.

“We are beyond thrilled to celebrate this commercial approval and regulatory milestone,” Michael Norcia, Pyka’s chief executive officer, said in the release. “Pyka’s aircraft provide an essential tool for protecting crops, unlocking cost savings for growers, and reducing our impact on the environment. This commercial approval is the first step in enabling us to generate massive value for growers in the U.S., Latin America, and other markets we operate in, while also laying the operational and regulatory groundwork for eventual scaling into uncrewed cargo operations worldwide.”

Among other safety and environmental benefits, the use of highly-automated UAS like the Pelican to perform potentially hazardous aircraft operations can reduce the number of pilot fatalities that occur each year in the aerial agricultural spraying industry, Lisa Ellman, partner and chair of Hogan Lovells’ Uncrewed Aircraft System Practice and a policy advocate for the commercial UAS industry, said in the release.

Pyka develops safe, environmentally-friendly, and cost-effective aviation with highly-automated electric airplanes for crop protection and other commercial applications. Pyka’s proprietary technology includes automated flight control software, flight computers, high energy density batteries, advanced electric propulsion systems, and carbon composite airframes.

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