YINCHUAN, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- An eight-rotor drone whirred to life, and hovered steadily in the air before setting off to spray a large vegetable field in Guyuan City in the northwestern autonomous region of Ningxia Hui.
Yao Xuan, who manages over 10,000 Mu (667 hectares) of farmland, sat restlessly in the shade of a shed as he watched the drone at work.
As soon as the drone landed, Yao rushed to talk to his technical team to ask if the first flight had been a success.
Yao is trying automated pesticide spraying to improve the yield and quality of the crops produced by the cooperative he manages.
The cooperative was formed in 2008 in response to a call by the central government to transfer and combine plots of rural land to improve production.
China feeds 22 percent of the world's population with 7 percent of the world's arable land. Yao's home city Guyang, is not part of the 7 percent.
Recalling the challenges the cooperative faced, Yao said it became clear very early on that it was unrealistic to rely solely on human resources.
When it rains, he said, our farmers find it hard to muster up the motivation to work the fields.
"It was obvious that we needed to explore new processes and try new technology," he said.
"Using drones to spray is much more efficient than hard labor," said Li Jianhong, a drone technician. he explained that a drone carrying 10 liters of pesticide can spray a field of up to 10 Mu in as many minutes.
He explained that using drones for this task costs 30 to 40 yuan (4.5- 6 U.S. dollars) per Mu while the human cost is about 60 yuan per Mu.
The drone can also thoroughly spray both sides of the leaves as the air surge created by the drone turns over the leaves, said Li.
These drones are being used on over 26,000 Mu of fields in Ningxia and this will only increase in the future.
Yao will purchase more drones and train his employees to use them by the end of this year.
"When our fleet is bigger, the quality of our products is sure to take another leap forward," Yao said.