Yamaha Motor’s Unmanned Helicopter to Take Off in Kenya

Yamaha Motor Co Ltd will expand its industrial unmanned helicopter business to Africa.

Yamaha Motor will start test flight in Kenya in 2019.

The company plans to use its helicopters for spraying agricultural chemical, transporting commodities to remote areas, researching disaster sites, etc.

“It is difficult to predict when the African market will grow, but its potential is huge,” Yamaha Motor Chair Hiroyuki Yanagi said. “Like the outboard motor business that we have been engaged in since the 1970s, we will expand the business while contributing to the society.”

In the past, Yamaha Motor introduced not only outboard motors but also Japanese fishing and fish processing technologies to African nations, where only wooden boats equipped with sails and oars were used for fishing.

The company tapped and expanded the African market for outboard motors by modernizing the fishing industry.

African rice farming market 3 times larger than Japanese market

Following the fishing industry, Yamaha Motor is considering utilizing the success of outboard motors for agriculture. Mainly, it will bring industrial unmanned helicopters for spraying agricultural chemicals to the African market. In Japan, one in three unmanned helicopters used for spraying agricultural chemicals for rice farming is a product of Yamaha Motor, according to the company.

The market for rice farming in Africa is currently three times larger than in Japan, Yanagi said. As in the case of outboard motors, by taping the market while providing agricultural technologies, Yamaha Motor aims to expand the sale of its industrial unmanned helicopters and grow the agricultural market at the same time.

Yamaha Motor decided to tap the African market from Kenya because it tied up with a subsidiary of Astral Aviation, which runs an air-cargo business in the country. The two companies will jointly consider services using unmanned helicopters for agriculture and disaster prevention.

Yamaha Motor already prototyped an unmanned helicopter to be used for the verification test in Kenya in 2019. For the African market, where road infrastructure has not been established yet, the company improved flight performance.

At the Japan-Africa Business Expo, which took place from Aug 28 to 30, 2019, Yamaha Motor exhibited the helicopter. It is 600mm longer than “Fazer R,” the company’s existing crop-spraying helicopter. Its can carry up to 70kg of load, which is 100% more than the loading capacity of the Fazer R. The maximum speed and flight range were increased by 30% to faster than 100km/h (approx 62.1mph) and 100% to 200km (approx 124 miles), respectively.

The engine of the prototyped helicopter is the same as the engine of the Fazer R (390cc gasoline engine). One of the reasons why the flight performance was improved is that Yamaha Motor removed a blade called “stabilizer” and used the power (consumed for rotating the stabilizer) for the main blade instead. Also, the company increased the capacity of the fuel tank.