Australia’s CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) has been conducting flight trials of two unmanned helicopters in local rainforests to detect noxious weeds which are a threat to native plants and animals.
The small, unmanned helicopters – which can fit into the back of a van – were developed by robotics researchers at CSIRO as part of Project ResQu, which is a two-year project led by the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA) and involving the CSIRO, Boeing Research and Technology Australia, Insitu Pacific and Queensland University of Technology, with support from the Queensland State Government. It is conducting safety studies and developing automated safety technologies to allow the use of unmanned aircraft for disaster recovery, as well as biosecurity and resource management.
Photo courtesy CSIRO
In the flight trials, conducted in rainforests at El Arish, near Cairns, in the country’s north east, the helicopters located weeds, including Miconia Calvescens – known as the “purple plague” – using sophisticated imaging technology developed in the project.
“They [the helicopters] performed better than expected, finding Miconia plants in dense rainforest that hadn’t been spotted before. Once the invasive plant is identified, they are removed from the rainforest,” says robotics researcher, Dr. Torsten Merz.
Project ResQu comprises four research streams, of which sensing and platform automation for detecting Miconia is one. It is also conducting risk and regulation research aimed at allowing the routine use of unmanned aircraft operations; developing a detect and avoid system; and an automated emergency landing system.
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