Robots to ResQu rainforests from purple plague

The team (L to R: Stefan Hrabar (CSIR0), Farid Kendoul (CSIRO), Torsten Merz (CSIRO), Brett Wood (CSIRO), Rowland Marshall (formerly QUT)) ©Stefan Hrabar-CSIRO

The team (L to R: Stefan Hrabar (CSIR0), Farid Kendoul (CSIRO), Torsten Merz (CSIRO), Brett Wood (CSIRO), Rowland Marshall (formerly QUT)) Cre4dit: Stefan Hrabar-CSIRO

Australia’s rare and precious rainforests, like the iconic Daintree, could have an unexpected aerial ally in the battle against weeds – autonomous helicopters.

Two Project ResQu helicopters developed by CSIRO completed trial flights near Cairns, locating weeds like the dreaded ‘purple plague’, or Miconia calvescens, faster and more reliably than ever.

Developed by robotics researchers at CSIRO, in partnership with Biosecurity Queensland, the unmanned helicopters found weeds using sophisticated imaging technology. The helicopters are safer and a more convenient way of mapping weeds in remote and difficult terrain.

CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship Science Director, Dr Gary Fitt, said access to dense rainforests was difficult for people but all-too-easy for weeds which get carried in by animals or blown in from gardens or farms.

“Miconia is among the worst of a number of weeds that pose a significant threat to Australia’s precious rainforest remnants,” Dr Fitt said.

“Unless detected and eradicated early, they can cause irreversible damage to our native plant and animal populations.

“In the biosecurity space effective surveillance is critical – we need to be able to detect incursions quickly and accurately. Technologies like the autonomous helicopter or other autonomous platforms provide us with another tool in the fight against these biological invasions.”

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