Could Drones Be The Solution To Australia Problem With Yellow Crazy Ants?

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The discovery of the yellow crazy ant in Australia in 2001 did not raise much attention, but its aggressiveness enabled it to establish itself quickly in more than 20 Queensland locations.  Today, the pest has been found from the suburbs of Brisbane to farmland in the states far north. Amongst the areas struggling with this pest is the Cairns region. The impact of this pest can only be described as devastating.

The rate in which the yellow crazy ant has established itself has entomologists and the agricultural sector concerned. For instance, in the Northern Territory, the pest occupies more than 2,500 square kilometres. In this region, farmers of cane and other crops are already recording losses. This is not to mention the serious threat to invertebrate fauna in this region. On Christmas Island alone, the pest is believed to be responsible for the death of more than 20 million red land crabs, which are native to the island. That’s how destructive this pest can be.

Yellow Crazy Ant

Efforts to Eradicate Yellow Crazy Ants

 A group of Cairn friends created the world’s first unmanned aerial ant baiting system to help eradicate yellow crazy ants. Ash Smith and his group of buddies hope that their new approach will assist in eradicating the pest.

The innovation makes use of drones to help in placing the baits where other methods have proven inefficient. ”If it works here, it’s going to change the way we do things,” said Mr Smith.” These pests are very aggressive and are quickly disrupting even our social practices. If they are in your backyard and you have small children, they (children) wouldn’t be able to go the backyard,” he added. He mentioned how they have also affected the tourism sector in this region. “If the yellow crazy ants get into the forest around some of the tourist attractions, then they (tourists) wouldn’t be able to go there,” Mr Smith said.

How the Method Works

Drone with HopperFor the drone to be effective in dispersing the baits remotely, it’s fitted with a hopper capable of carrying numerous small baits. All you have to do is to load the drone with the bait and fly it to areas infested with yellow crazy ants and drop it. The group makes use of the Drone camera image to determine the right places to drop the baits. Due to its small size, the drone can disperse these baits even in the most hard to reach places, unlike the other methods such helicopters.

Although he acknowledges the use of helicopters, the fact that they can only operate in exclusive zones makes them somewhat ineffective. “They can’t fly in some areas, and so the baiting is done by other means such as walking around which has proven difficult due to Lantana and Lawyer Cane in this region,” Mr Smith said. “I’m sure that there are areas that haven’t been baited simply because they can’t be reached,” he added.

Funding Will Improve Safety and Reduced Cost

Mr Smith said compared to other baiting methods such as the use of helicopters and walking around, drones will significantly cut costs of baiting programs. He also believes that it will improve worker safety. “This method takes the dangers for workers out of the picture – well, it’s true that drones crash, but nobody gets hurt,” he said. “The cost for the programs will drop significantly since you only need to fly a drone, and anyone can do it. In fact, the cost cut will be massively reduced if this method is used,” he added.

Australian Yellow Crazy AntsThis method has been tested and found to deliver great results. If properly funded, it will play a critical role in eradicating yellow crazy ants in Queensland and Australia at large. “A lot of funding to the local organisation for the eradication of these pests should implement technology like this,” Mr Smith said. He believes that if the funding can come forward, they can clean up yellow crazy ants once and for all with this method. “If it goes on too much longer, and the pest better establishes itself, there are going to be some big issues,” he said.

This is a great technological innovation that should be invested in. Current methods are not really working. Testing has proven advantageous over most of the methods currently being used in yellow crazy ants’ eradication. 

Reference: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-30/yellow-crazy-ants-queensland-designed-drones-could-solve-problem/6986334

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