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US Gives Farmers Approval To Spray Crops From Drones

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

In this Oct. 15, 2014, file photo, a drone called the RMAX, a remotely piloted helicopter, sprays water over grapevines during a demonstration of it's aerial application capabilities at the University of California, Davis' Oakville Station.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

(AP) - A drone large enough to carry tanks of fertilizers and pesticides has won rare approval from federal authorities to spray crops in the United States.

Steve Markofski of Yamaha Corp. U.S.A. said Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration's approval is a first. He says drones are already used to take pictures to help farmers identify unhealthy patches of crops, but this is the first time they'll be able to carry a payload.

Markofski says Yamaha's 207-pound RMAX looks like a small helicopter and is remotely piloted. It received FAA approval Friday.

Markofski says farmers in Japan and other countries have used the large drone for years.

University of California, Davis, professor Ken Giles says it's best suited for precision spraying on California's rolling vineyards and hard-to-reach places.