Drone Wars: using drones to spread beneficial bugs

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 By Amanda Froelich
This article previously appeared in TrueActivist.com and is republished under a Creative Commons license.

 

 As part of a summer scholarship project at the University of Queensland in Australia, Michael Godfrey came up with the idea of utilizing remote control technology to drop beneficial bugs on crops as a natural form of pest control.

The “bug drone” buzzes over pest-infested crops and drops Californicus mites – which eat harmful bugs – on cornfields like little paratroopers.

“The idea [is] to use natural predators or diseases to control agricultural pests. [We can] mitigate chemical use, which is not only harmful for the environment but also costly,” he stated in an email to FastCo-Exist.

This method has been found to be much faster and more economical than walking through corn rows and spreading them by hand, as is the traditional method.

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The five-and-a-half pound, six-rotor drone with a converted seed spreader on the bottom to hold the mites can cover 12 acres in just 15 minutes. A small motor on the bottom turns a wheel that releases the bugs while the drone soars over the cornstalks.

“The bugs come in small cylinders with vermiculite as a medium. Spreading them around a five hectare field is just time consuming and dull. The drone can cover a field that size in less than 15 minutes,” he says.

To be able to compare fields he’s treated with those he hasn’t, an infrared camera has been mounted on the device to allow Godfrey, an agricultural science student, to see how well the “bug drone” is working.

“Remote sensing with precision agriculture is an interesting field, and it has opened my eyes to the career opportunities,” he said.

At the University of Queensland Gatton, students can study precision agriculture in a course run by Associate Professor Ki Bryceson who also manages the Agriculture and Remote Sensing laboratory.

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