You are here:

What does agricultural drone spraying of 66.7 million hectares mean to the planet?

The United Nations has predicted that the global population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. As global warming and energy shortage intensifies, humans are facing unprecedented challenges on multiple fronts such as food, energy, and water supply. This has given rise to the pressing need for green and sustainable agricultural practices.


In 2021, DJI pilots have completed agricultural missions covering a total of 66.7 million hectares of farmland. Besides greater machine efficiency, what else have we contributed to the ecosystem and its sustainable development?

Greener Practices

Reduced carbon emissions by 3.43 million tonnes

Climate change, which has triggered a series of environmental issues such as melting glaciers and rising sea levels, is impacting each of our lives. One of the ways of tackling the climate crisis is by reducing carbon emissions. To this end, China has committed to achieving peak emissions by 2030 and carbon neutralization by 2060. DJI Agriculture is echoing these goals by exploring ways to limit carbon emissions.

In plant protection operations, replacing traditional machines with drones can reduce carbon emissions by 51.45 kg CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per hectare.[1] For 66.7 million hectares, that’s equal to 3.43 million tonnes of CO2e.

3.43 million tonnes carbon emissions is equivalent to

  1. Carbon absorbed by 161 million trees in a year
  2. Carbon emissions from 1.27 million vehicles
  3. Saved water by 29 million tonnes
The use of drones in farmland management saves around 435 liter of water per hectare compared to manual operations. For 66.7 million hectares, that’s equal to saving 29 million tonnes of water.29 million tonnes water is equivalent to the water intake of 52.72 million residents in a year[2] 


Increased pesticide utilization rate by 10%[3]

The application of agricultural drones can increase pesticide utilization rate by at least 10% compared to manual back-carried spraying. At the pesticide usage rate of 1.5 kg per hectare, 1,000 tonnes of pesticide can be saved by spraying 66.7 million hectares using drones.

Increased safety in farmland management

Pesticide poisoning has been a perennial problem in the industry. The increased use of agricultural drones has made farmland operations safer by protecting personnel from chemical hazards, providing farmers with a healthier, safer work environment.

Providing new solutions to environmental protection

Regreening mines in Xinjiang

Three years ago, several abandoned mines in Fukang City, Changji Prefecture of Xinjiang were found to have caused severe pollution to local environment. In March 2021, DJI’s agricultural partner Tieman plant protection team joined the regreening operations for the mines, where they seeded 666.7 hectares of land using drones and restored its vegetation. This summer, the mines were covered in sweeping green grass and showing vital signs of growth.

Seeding success for mudflats in Zhejiang

In March 2021, Shanghai Mu Ying Ecological Technology scattered 12 million scirpus mariquete seeds on mudflats near the 10-km Baishawan Seawall in the coastal wetlands of Pinghu City, Jiaxing, Zhejiang, using the DJI T30. In four months, the area developed into a green and picturesque ecological attraction. The successful project provides valuable seeding experiences that are replicable in future wetland protection efforts.

Grass seeding on the Tibetan Plateau

The ecological environment in Tibet is fragile owing to a combination of factors including its high altitude, cold climate and unique topology and aquatic environment, which have led to serious desertification and land degradation issues. In May 28, 2021, the DJI plant protection team conducted its first drone grass-seeding mission across nine counties in four cities, namely Lhasa, Shigatse, Shannan, and Nyingchi, aiming to improve forestation capabilities in snowy plateaus. The operation covered an area of 44,320 hectares, with around 323.01 tonnes of seeds spread.

Digital agriculture for precision farmland management

Variable spread lowered fertilizer consumption in rice and wheat fields by 10%


In 2021, Jiangsu Farming onboarded DJI’s digital agricultural solutions in the operation of its farmland of 86,700 hectares. During the pandemic, the company embraced digital production management by deploying drones for autonomous patrols and remote monitoring of crop growth. With the drone’s variable and precise spreading technology, they were also able to reduce fertilizer consumption in their rice and wheat fields by 10%.

Precise chemical control and defoliation for cotton crops

In May 2021, Chen Gongxu from Shihezi City, Xinjiang adopted DJI’s digital agricultural solutions for his cotton fields of more than 333.3 hectares. He used a multispectral drone to survey cotton growth in different areas and to generate treatment maps for spraying plant promoters in variable amounts.By relying on multispectral data, the drone could also spray defoliants in precise quantities. This not only minimizes the use of defoliants but is also friendlier to the land and the environment, all while ensuring proper defoliation of the crops. As of September 28, Chen’s cotton yield saw an increase of 900 kg to 9,150 kg per hectare and a reduction in chemical usage by 20%.

Better Growth, Better Life.

[1] 1.Diesel is the main source of fuel for conventional tractors. Based on the IPCC Guidelines, the calorific value per unit for diesel fuel used by agricultural machinery is 42,652 KJ/kg, with a CO2 emission factor per calorific value unit of 74.1 kg/GJ and carbon oxidation factor of 0.98. Therefore, the CO2 emission factor for diesel fuel is 3.10 kg CO2e/kg. In 2016, the median fuel consumption for mechanized plant protection operations in China was 16.8 kg/ha, which translates to carbon emissions of 52.05 kg per hectare. Aerial application drones are mostly powered electrically and their spraying actions are mainly driven by gasoline generators. The calorific value per unit for gasoline is 43,070 KJ/kg, with a CO2 emission factor per calorific value unit of 69.3 kg/GJ and carbon oxidation factor of 0.98. This means the CO2 emission factor for gasoline is 2.93kg CO2e/kg. In plant protection operations, the gasoline consumption per hectare is approx. 0.21 kg/ha, which translates to carbon emissions per hectare of 0.63 kg CO2e. Agricultural drones are more energy efficient than conventional machinery, able to reduce carbon emissions by 51.45 kg CO2e per hectare.

[2]A human’s average water intake per year is 550L.

[3]In the paper “The impact of the widespread use of aerial application drones on improving the pesticide utilization rate in China” by Yuan Huizhu, et. al. from the Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, pesticide utilization rates achieved by aerial application drones with low tank capacity flying at low altitudes for spraying operations on rice, wheat and corn were 49. 1%, 57. 1%, and 52. 70% respectively, compared to manual back-carried spraying with large tank capacity. According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the fertilizer utilization rate for the three main crops, namely rice, wheat and corn, in 2020 was 40.2%. Compared to manual back-carried spraying with large tank capacity, agricultural drones can improve pesticide utilization rate by at least 10%.