OAKLAND, Calif., - Pyka, a manufacturer of large-scale highly-automated electric aircraft for crop protection and cargo transport in Oakland, California, announced that it has received approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate its zero-emission highly-automated Pelican Spray aircraft for crop protection commercially nationwide. With a gross weight of 1,125 lbs, Pyka says its uncrewed aerial system (UAS) is the largest ever to receive FAA authorization for commercial operation in the United States.
Pyka says with access to its 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. Pyka's Pelican Spray can carry up to 540 lbs (70 gallons) of liquid and spray up to 240 acres per hour.
In conjunction with an agricultural aircraft operator certificate, this FAA approval will enable Pyka to commence commercial operations in the United States. 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 interests in the $60 billion global drone market.
"We are beyond thrilled to celebrate this commercial approval and regulatory milestone," said Michael Norcia, Chief Executive Officer 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."
"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," said Lisa Ellman, Partner and Chair of Hogan Lovells' Uncrewed Aircraft System Practice and leading policy advocate for the commercial UAS industry.