Eradicating invasive species with quadcopters

That right there is Sydney Golden Wattle, a fast-growing invasive species native to Eastern Australia that has the possibility of covering 20 percent of the bushland in Western Australia by the year 2020. [John Moore], a researcher at the Department of Food and Agriculture, wants to put an end to this infestation by destroying large swaths of wattle with a quadcopter armed with weed killer.

The plan for the robotic plant assassins is simple; take aerial photographs of the bushland in Western Austraila and identify stands of individual weeds. [Moore]‘s robots are then dispatched to these stands of weeds to spray them down with weed killer.

The quadcopters are armed with a camera, allowing the operator to make sure the robot is hovering directly over the invasive weeds. Considering these weeds are found in somewhat inaccessible places – and the fact that just about everything in Australia is poisonous – these robotic weeders will kill more wattle than what could be done on foot.

We couldn’t find a video of the robot in action, or a demo of the herbicide spay system of [John]‘s copter. If you can find one of those, send it in and we’ll put it up.

Thanks to [Michal] for sending this in.

Comments

  1. jon says:

    I have Japanesse knot weed growing in my back yard, any chance I could get one of these, and have it autonomously identify and spray it?

    Better still, get a small weed torch on there and it can be used in vegetable gardens. (with plenty of safety features, and likely an automated sprinkler system set to go off right after it’s done.)

  2. Cid says:

    “erradicating” and “quadcopters” in the same sentence… What could possibly go wrong?

  3. Ren says:

    herbicide “spay” system, that’ll keep the plants from reproducing!

    Considering the payload (gallons of herbicide/water mix) and the gallons of fuel necessary to run a laden Australian Swal^H^H^H^H Quadcopter, we’re not talking ’bout your average size quadcopter now, are we?

  4. Jehu says:

    Nice cover story. Me thinks the wattle isn’t the real ‘weed’ they are after.

  5. Tom the Brat says:

    They’d need a long duration quadcopter.

  6. imroy264 says:

    Hey, not everything down here is poisonous!

  7. terminator says:

    Hm, coming to think of it, *humans* are actually also an “invasive species” in Australia…

    • Grayda says:

      I just asked some white guys in an ADIDAS tracksuit with a Dada jacket and they informed me that the white men were here first, and the Aboriginals took over the country and made us the minority. Then he mentioned that I wasn’t able to do something (“You can’t” were his exact words) before doing a burnout in his Commodore.

      So there..?

      • Erich says:

        Hmm, you came across a specimen of bogan vulgaris subsp. hoon

        In approximately 6 months there will be the annual migration to South Australia.

        If you encounter a specimen, try using words with lots syllables to confuse them, failing that, blue and red flashing lights might scare them off.

  8. J says:

    This is ridiculously inefficient. 6 minutes of flight time (3 minutes is not enough time to get from road to weed), an operator for every (couple?) quadracopters, some kind of docking trailer where refills take place, people hauling water, and you’d be lucky to cover 100ha a day. By the time you get done the plant will have developed tolerance to whatever product they are using.

    Its way cheaper to sink a couple billion dollars into biological pest control research. Thats what Australia did to discover which moths will control prickly pear, which weevils control salvinia, which dung beetles control fly populations, how they created the virus to control rabbit populations, etc, etc

    Of course there’s cane toads too.

  9. Jo says:

    Cool! I bet we’ll see quads everywhere in a few years. I hope they prioritize the tacocopter over this though.

  10. ioport51 says:

    Let me get this straight, a flying robot spraying/exterminating an unwanted species? What could possibly go wrong with that?
    Did the doctor teach us nothing??

  11. Drake says:

    I think it could be viable with multiple drones and a solar charging station that refilled the herbicide at the same time. Send a scout out to identify locations and the rest would seek and destroy. Hell I wonder if you could replace the herbicide with some sort of liquid compressed gas like CO2 to just locally freeze them, or attach a spike to target the roots …

  12. Simon says:

    I still prefer the Yamaha R-MAX..
    The Japanese use them for crop dusting rice paddies.

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