Yamaha set to lease — to responsible clients only

Yamaha manufactures two versions of its drone helicopter used in agriculture.

They share a common frame, fuselage and all dimensions.

The original Rmax is powered by a two-stroke twin-cylinder 246 cubic centimetre engine.

Its 16 kilogram payload allows it to carry two eight litre liquid product tanks or a pair of eight kg granular tanks.

The lease will be based on a purchase price of about US$150,000.

The Fazer model has a 24 kg payload and is powered by a four-stroke twin-cylinder 390 c.c. engine. The fuel injected engine is quieter and cleaner than the two-stroke. It carries two 12 litre liquid tanks or a pair of 10 kg granular tanks. It is priced at $180,000.

“We’re doing our work … with the lower-powered Rmax simply be-cause this is the machine with which we’ve had the most experience here in the States,” said Yamaha’s Steve Markofski.

It has become relatively easy to obtain a permit to fly a gas-powered drone helicopter that weighs less than 55 pounds, but a 207 lb. remote controlled chopper requires special permission under U.S. regulation 333.

The Federal Aviation Authority scrutinizes every applicant carefully.

The 333 license applies only to the Rmax and not to remote controlled helicopters under development.

“There is a possibility of us leasing an Rmax to an aerial applicator or some other business, and they would pursue their own 333 exemption to begin commercial operations,” he said.

“This 333 on our Rmax is nothing more than a temporary Band-Aid. In the background, we’re pursuing certification of our Fazer so we can roll it out on a large scale and begin leasing them to other entities.”

He said Yamaha sells the helicopters to farmers in Japan but wants to keep control of the airframe and electronics in North America until it know it’s being used correctly.

Markofski said the company will intervene with fresh training or pull the machine in extreme cases if a lease client misuses a Yamaha helicopter, but it doesn’t have that option if the helicopter is sold to a client.

He said the lease arrangement is better for the client because it makes Yamaha responsible for maintenance and upgrades and relieves the client of the full burden of the purchase price.

The FAA imposed 28 conditions when issuing its 333 approval:

  • The Rmax is limited to speeds of less than 45 m.p.h. and a maximum altitude of 400 feet.
  • The drone pilot and spotter must maintain direct line of sight with the helicopter while it’s in flight.

For more information, contact Markofski at steve_markofski@yamaha-motor.com.

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