Yamaha’s Industrial Drones Expand to New Fields

Yamaha Motor Co. Ltd. has set a long-term vision for 2030, “ART for Human Possibilities”. Particularly, it aims to expand human potential by solving social issues and bringing about changes using robotics.

Following this vision, the company will expand the industrial drone business for smart agriculture, etc.

Hiroyuki Ota, Senior Executive Officer and Chief General Manager of Solution Business Operations, said, “In order to position it as a growing field, we do not limit our robotics business to surface mounters and industrial robots. By applying the autonomous control technology, we are expanding the scope to automation of agriculture, using drones and land vehicles.”

Hiroyuki Ota, Senior Executive Officer and Chief General Manager of Solution Business Operations

Taps Global Agriculture Business

Yamaha Motor’s industrial drone originated from its entry into the business of unmanned helicopters used to spray pesticides in 1987. Moreover, Japan is not the only country that use the helicopters. To name a few, South Korea, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand, also use this technology to spray pesticides. In addition, they are used in a wide range of applications such as inspection of infrastructure such as power lines, surveying/observation, photography, and security.

Industrial drones exploit the know-how and knowledge gained over 30 years of experience in the agricultural unmanned helicopters. In March 2019, the company released the agricultural multi-rotor YMR-08 and started the business at full scale. In addition, Yamaha Motor has also accelerated overseas expansion as part of agricultural automation solutions. In the field of agriculture, it will commercialize pesticide spraying in Thailand jointly with a local company.

In Brazil, the company has invested in the startup company ARPAC, aiming to acquire knowledge and networks in the pesticide spraying business. Furthermore, it aims to build a foundation for a global agricultural business. Particularly, the purpose is to expand further into countries other than Brazil in the future. Brazil is one of the world’s largest food storages. The smart agriculture market, such as pesticide spraying using electric drones, is rapidly expanding in many large-scale farms.

The company is also working on human resource development for drones (practical training at Shizuoka Professional University of Agriculture)

In addition, the company signed a joint development agreement on smart agriculture with Australian startup company “The Yield”. Accordingly, the aim is to improve agricultural productivity using digital technology and robotics, including agricultural drones. In Australia, the company is also working with Treasury Wine Estates, a major winemaker.

Expands to New Fields

In addition to agriculture, the company used industrial drones in a wide range of areas such as air transportation to and from remote islands, transportation of marine products, and home delivery to mountainous areas.

Ota said, “We will actively promote open innovation with universities and venture companies, in order to gather wisdom from around the world.” The company invests not only in manufacturing, but also in early-stage venture companies possessing innovative technologies and business models. The company will work to solve various social issues by combining the strengths of the company in manufacturing with such new technologies and business models.

Moreover, Yamaha Motor also works on human resource development related to drones. It supports industrial multi-rotor skill training for students in Shizuoka Professional University of Agriculture (SPUA) in Iwata City.

Moreover, the university is focusing on education and research in smart agriculture that utilizes robotics and information and communications technology. The aim is to cultivate professionals in the field of the agriculture and forestry management. In addition, leaders in rural communities, it provides the opportunity of training of drone operation. This links to labor saving in pesticide spraying. An instructor belonging to “Multi-Rotor Academy” of the company provides a course of academic e-learning, of mastering basic operations using a proprietary simulator, and of training using actual equipment.

As a new model of the industrial multi-rotor “YMR” series, “YMR-II” equipped with an automatic flight function as standard will be released in the next spring. It is equipped with a function to prevent the outflow of know-how obtained at agricultural production sites and a new application for automatic flight which is easy to operate even for beginners.