A drone company in New Zealand is operating on a prototype that they trust could change the way the small Pacific nation deals with pests.
Aeronavics specializes in developing high-end drones for the industrial sector and newly employed their expertise to assist in safeguarding endangered rhinos from poachers in South Africa.
The company has invented durable drones that are capable of flying for more than an hour and are equipped with night-vision and infrared camera technology that helped to observe rhino numbers as well as identify poachers.
Possums are small animals, originally from Australia, and have a pervasive negative effect on New Zealand’s native plant and wildlife. Possums are a particular menace in New Zealand due to their enormous numbers, fast-breeding time and love of eating native trees and frequently, bird’s eggs.
Aeronavics want to develop software that will independently scan and search animals over wide areas of land. One of the struggles with spotting pests from the air is that many of the areas these pests reside in are protected with thick bush. Aeronavic’s drones are also provided with sensors that can find things like pheromones or feces which assist in detecting where concentrations of pests are at their highest.
The benefit of this approach is the cost savings by using drones to kill pests compared to more traditional approaches like hunters, trapping or helicopter poison dumps.
Aeronavics states that one of their drones flying independently for an hour can cover an area of roughly .8 square miles or 2 square kilometers and within that time it can spot potentially thousands of possums.
Aeronavics hopes that a completely automated system will be ready in three years. The price per drone is currently around $40,000 and Aeronavics believes to enter into negotiations with the government for being part of the future pest control efforts in New Zealand.