Proagco drones have been trialled in an industry first aimed at managing mosquitos in hard-to-reach and environmentally sensitive areas within Moreton Bay Marine Park.
Redland City Mayor Karen Williams said the six-month trial, which is being conducted in partnership with agricultural digital solution provider Proagco, had exciting potential.
“Council is leading the way as one of the first councils in South-East Queensland to engage the use of drones as part of its Mosquito Management Program,” Cr Williams said.
“The trial has proved they work and now it’s hoped the program can be expanded to protect our sensitive environments as well as the health of Redlands residents.”
Due to finish at the end of this mosquito breeding season, the focus of the trial has been on Geoff Skinner Wetlands Reserve at Wellington Point; Point Halloran Conservation Area at Victoria Point; German Church Road wetlands at Mt Cotton; and Rocky Passage Road at Redland Bay.
Cr Williams said two sorts of drones supplied by Proagco were used – smaller ones equipped with many cameras to pinpoint and map mozzie breeding grounds, and two larger drones used to transport and deliver the chemical directly over mosquito breeding sites.
“After rains, high-density hard-to-reach Redlands conservation areas that are lush with mangroves and casuarinas typically contain puddles of water that present prime breeding grounds for mosquito larvae,” Cr Williams said.
“These environmentally sensitive areas are often difficult to access and require officers to travel by foot to apply treatments manually by hand, wearing 25kg backpack blowers.
“Access to other areas might also require the use of the Argo and quad bikes.
“Drones can travel direct to the breeding site to deliver chemical that is target-specific and only toxic to mosquito larvae.
“Not only can this method increase the efficacy of treatments but it’s better for the safety of Council officers by reducing manual handling, heat stress and fatigue.”
Regional Mosquito Management Group chairman Cr Paul Golle said Council assessments indicated the drones might have use in treating up to 40 per cent of existing mosquito breeding sites presently treated by hand.
“They also have potential to treat sites presently inaccessible by foot or helicopter,” Cr Golle said.
“While Council has been measuring what is possible, Proagco has been modifying the drones as Councils officers discover what this new technology can do.
“The drones can now fly up to 30m high, making it possible to deliver chemicals in heavily treed areas.”
Proagco director Brendon Hare said the $50,000 large drones, originally designed and manufactured in china for sowing plant seeds sand spreading powders and liquids, were quickly found to be not up to the task for spreading the range of solid materials required for mosquito control. Almost immediately after trials commenced it became obvious that the drones required extensive modifications to become effective .
“Following these modifications we are currently able to deliver accurate targeted treatment to approximately 1.2 -1.5 hectares breeding habitats per 10 minute flight,” he said.
“Productive capabilities and efficiency of drones in mosquito control , will continue to improve via further modifications and advancements in battery and mapping technologies”
“There is no doubt that the commercial opportunities for the use of drones in mosquito control, will become an increasingly attractive proposition .”