August 11, 2015 | by Jeffrey Dennison, WSU Tri-Cities
PROSSER, Wash. – Washington State University is partnering with Digital Harvest Corp. to test an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that could provide a safer, less expensive means to blow rainwater off cherry orchards to avoid fruit losses.
Rain can cause splits in the skin of cherries and similar fruits, rendering them susceptible to premature decay and, thus, commercially unmarketable. Growers use hovering helicopters to dry off cherry crops after a rainstorm, but that is costly and can be dangerous. [full article]
In July of 2013, Dr. Lav Khot and his team were in the field looking at how cherries were picked, weighed, and transported, when suddenly a helicopter began circling around a nearby orchard block. When Dr. Khot asked the grower about it he said, “There was a rain last night, and we are trying to dry the tree canopies.” The grower told Khot that cherries are susceptible to cracking if moisture stays on the fruit too long, so they hire helicopters to fly over their orchards to remove water from the fruit and leaves, hoping to prevent fruit loss. [full article]
A slight breeze comes from the north, but it’s not enough to stir the sun-faded windsock above the tarmac near Mann Lake in Lewiston, Idaho. The sudden and unexpected gusts of wind, however, do. It’s a brisk 48 degrees, but of more concern is the smeared cloud taking up the southwestern horizon, out of place among its more defined, cumulus neighbors mottling the blue canvas above.
“We have about ten minutes,” says Chris Chaney, who earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from WSU this year. “We’re going to have to time this right. This is probably one of the most dangerous flights we’ve done.”