Bernard Magrez is to roll out newly-developed vineyard drones in his four classified Bordeaux estates.
Magrez will use the drones at the classified estates Pape Clement, La Tour Carnet, Fombrauge and Haut Peyraguay, before eventually extending them to his entire portfolio of Bordeaux properties, and those in the south of France.
The technology, which involves unmanned mini-helicopter drones equipped with cameras and other sensors, can be used to fly over vineyards measuring plant damage, disease, hydric stress, grape ripeness and various other parameters, including soil specificities and land contours for drainage.
Chateau Luchey-Halde in AOC Pessac Léognan tested the Scancopter 450, from Fly-n-Sense, back in May 2011, while several estates in California and Oregon have begun using similar technology. Both Chateau Bouscaut and Chateau La Dauphine have also used drone technology in recent months to create aerial marketing videos of their estates.
Jeanne Lacombe, technical director of all eleven Magrez Médoc estates, including La Tour Carnet and Les Grands Chenes, told decanter.com that a single drone has been ordered, at the cost of €50,000, and will begin work in April of this year.
‘We have done tests so far, and are very happy with the results. The drone can cover 1.5ha of vines in four minutes, so we expect around one week for a property of the size of La Tour Carnet, which extends over 120 hectares.
‘We envisage using the drone three or four weeks of the year at each property, moving between them as needed, and will buy other drones in the future if the experiment proves successful.’
Lacombe expects the drone to offer significant manpower reductions, and ensure that all Magrez estates can employ the same levels of plot-by-plot precision viticulture.
‘We expect to make significant reductions also in the use of fertilisers and any vineyard treatments, as the drone measures requirements so precisely. It also means cutting down on use of tractors. We are training in using the technology right now, and will at first employ manual controls, but in the future the drone will be operated simply by programming from the computer’.
Magrez himself said being a precursor in the use of new technologies was a ‘point of pride’.
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux