Pyka receives FAA approval for crop sprayer operations


Pyka has received approval from the FAA to commercially operate its highly-automated Pelican Spray aircraft for crop protection across the US. 

With a gross weight of 1,125 lbs, Pyka’s uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) is the largest ever to be authorised by the FAA for commercial operation in the US, said the firm.

In conjunction with an agricultural aircraft operator certificate, this FAA approval enables Pyka to commence commercial operations in the US. Versus piloted spray aircraft, Pyka said farmers can increase spray precision and reduce chemical usage costs therefore minimising environmental impact. Safety is also upped, in 2020 alone, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported 54 aircraft accidents involving agricultural operations, including 12 fatal accidents resulting in 13 deaths. Already in operation in Costa Rica, Honduras and Brazil, Pike’s UAS can carry up to 540 lbs (70 gallons) of liquid and spray up to 240 acres per hour.

“We are beyond thrilled to celebrate this commercial approval and regulatory milestone,” said Michael Norcia, CEO of Pyka. “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.”

Lisa Ellman, partner and chair of Hogan Lovells’ Uncrewed Aircraft System Practice, added: “This is a significant win for Pyka and the agricultural community they serve. 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.”