Drones trialled in Aussie war on pests

Trials are underway in rural Queensland and New South Wales with military grade drones to test their effectiveness in spotting feral pigs, dogs, deer and rabbits.

The trials are being conducted by Ninox Robotics who gained approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to fly the drones at a height of over 400 metres and at night, employing infrared cameras.

The drone carries two cameras which can switch between normal visual spectrum and infrared.

Video from the drone is streamed to ground control stations so that the drone pilot and landowner can work out the location, number and type of targeted pests. Hunters can then use this information to find pests and shoot them.

There is also the potential to use the drone to find lost people, search for small bushfires or catalogue livestock as it has a flight time of four hours and can cover an area of up to 100 kilometres. The drone has a top speed of 120 kilometres per hour.

Once the trials have been completed and the company gains regulatory approval from CASA, Ninox Robotics managing director Marcus Ehrlich said that it planned to offer its services to government agencies, farmers and landholders to help with biosecurity issues or search and rescue.

“A Ninox team will come out to an area of operation and people will utilise it. We are looking at the $3000 to $3500 mark for a flight,” he said.

In the advent of a bushfire, agencies such as the NSW Rural Fire Service would also be charged for the service.

According to Ehrlich, Australia spends over $200 million a year on pest control.

One farmer told him that he had lost “six figures worth” of sheep to feral dogs.

“The issue has caused billions of dollars in damages and lost revenue, as well as significant destruction to the country’s unique biodiversity. With the application of drones, we have a new weapon in this flight,” he said.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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