Pyka, a company specializing in fully autonomous and electric aircraft, said it just received regulatory approval in Costa Rica to fly unmanned spray missions at night with its Pelican Spray aircraft.
The company had already been using the Pelican to spray large banana plantations during the day but this new approval will greatly expand its hours of viable operation. Although persistent use of pesticides can have lots of negative side effects, the ability to fly at night could help with aspects like improved spray distribution and less unintended chemical drift thanks to typically calmer winds after sundown.
For Pyka, the approval is another milestone for a relatively young aerospace company. The startup was founded in 2017 and got an autonomous prototype aircraft successfully in the air later that year. Pyka’s first product, the Egret, was certified for commercial use in New Zealand by 2019 and the second generation product came the following year. The company, which has raised $48 million to date, began production of the Pelican in 2020 and started spraying banana crops in 2021.
The Pelican benefits agriculture operations by cutting out the cost of fossil fuels and enabling day and night spraying. But Pyka has plans for its unmanned technology beyond just agriculture. The company said it will seek additional commercial certifications in the U.S. and Latin America, and it plans to introduce the Pelican Cargo later this year.
According to TechCrunch, the Pelican Cargo will be able to carry up to 400 pounds and cover about 200 miles. Pyka plans to test its cargo-carrying variation initially by focusing on deliveries between islands that typically have to wait for manned cargo flights to get needed supplies.