Drones In The News 

Fighting the Russian wheat aphid with drones

Stories like this one are important to understand.  Wheat farmers in America have been battling the Russian wheat aphid for more than 30 years and now Australia is preparing to do the same.  The challenge with this small creature is that it can be very hard to track down and, once you do track it down, you may be too late.

Drones are providing a solution for rapidly scanning and analyzing fields for the aphid and will be an important tool in winning the battle.  Read this article from the Topeka Capital Journal to learn more.

“MANHATTAN — Nearly 8,500 miles lie between the cities of Brisbane, Australia, and Manhattan, Kan., but a common enemy 2 mm in length is bringing the cities’ researchers together.

The Russian wheat aphid is an invasive pest that has wreaked havoc on wheat crops in the United States for nearly three decades. Australian government officials and wheat growers hope to prevent the same from happening on their island nation.

In their attempt to stave off an aphid invasion, researchers are employing a modern piece of technological equipment — an unmanned aerial system.

Brian McCornack, an associate professor of entomology at Kansas State University, is the principal investigator of a project formally titled “Optimizing Surveillance Protocols Using Unmanned Aerial Systems.”

Equipped with cameras, global positioning systems and an array of sensors, the UASs hover over fields, snapping photos every two seconds from a height of 75 to 100 feet. Those photos then are compiled into a mosaic, which allows McCornack’s small team to scan hundreds of acres of land for signs of disease or infestation.

“We can use the UAS as a kind of quick and dirty way to look at a field and assess whether we need to spend more time sampling it,” McCornack said. “It might be a field, it might be an orchard; whatever the system is that we’re interested in protecting from invasive species.”

The method offers a far more accurate and efficient way to search for pests and disease. The current method, which McCornack describes as “haphazard,” involves simply walking into a wheat field and looking for signs of distress on plants.

“But in a 100-acre field, how much of that are we actually surveying,” McCornack said. “How much can we really see knowing that we may have 20, 30 other fields that we need to sample? So what we’re trying to do is get a bird’s-eye view of a field.””

Read more.

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