Drones transport navel oranges in Zigui, C China's Hubei

(People's Daily Online) 13:18, May 15, 2024

Drones transport navel oranges at a navel orange orchard on the banks of the Yangtze River in Zigui county, central China's Hubei Province. (Photo/Zheng Jiayu)

On the banks of the Yangtze River, a navel orange orchard was adorned with ripe, golden navel oranges. Liu Youcun, wearing white nylon gloves, deftly picked the oranges and filled five baskets.

He then instructed a staff member of an unmanned aerial vehicle agricultural service company to take off.

Three drones with lift ropes swiftly arrived. After Liu secured a basket to the lift rope, one drone took off, transporting a 50-kilogram basket of navel oranges from the orchard to the roadside below.

Liu, a villager from Quyuan township, Zigui county, central China's Hubei Province, has been cultivating navel oranges for over a decade.

Liu's navel orange orchard covers 20 mu (1.33 hectares) and yields between 2,500 to 4,000 kilograms of fresh oranges per mu. This results in a gross income of 20,000 yuan ($2,765) per mu.

The orange trees grow on steep slopes in the deep mountains. In the past, Liu's father would leave before sunrise, and carry the oranges as he descended from the mountains. He could only transport over 50 kilograms at a time.

Since 2008, Zigui county has used single and double-track transport vehicles on over 350 kilometers of tracks to facilitate the transport of oranges to the roadside.

However, using transport vehicles has drawbacks. Installing tracks for the vehicles requires cutting down orange trees, which many farmers are unwilling to do. Laying tracks also incurs costs that may not be economical for farmers planting on a small scale.

About 20 percent of the oranges in Zigui county are transported using transport vehicles, said Han Qingzhong, director of the agricultural technical service center of Zigui county.

In recent years, the promotion of agricultural drones has led to the establishment of a drone agricultural service company in Zigui county, which has revolutionized orange transportation.

During this year's orange harvest season, nearly 200 drones have been deployed to transport navel oranges.

"The demand for drone transportation of oranges has increased and we have trained over 400 pilots," said Liu Huide, head of an agricultural service company in Zigui.

"Each of the drones has three rechargeable batteries, which allows for continuous use. Each flight covers a radius of approximately 300 meters, and a drone can transport 10 tonnes of oranges a day," Liu Dehui said. He added that using drones for orange transportation is fast and cost-effective, with an average transport cost of only 0.3 yuan per kilogram of oranges.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


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