Research project employs drones to give early warning of spotted-wing drosophila

Drone technology could be used to create an automated monitoring system for soft fruit pest spotted-wing drosophila (SWD, Drosophila suzukii).

Image: University of Aberdeen
Image: University of Aberdeen

A three-year, Defra-funded project at the University of Aberdeen is to use drones to monitor, identify and alert growers to the presence of the fly so that they can take swift action to prevent crop damage.

Dr David Green of the university's department of geography and environment said: "Early detection is key to prevention, however current monitoring methods usually involve manually checking traps for signs of the fruit fly, which is very time-consuming and inefficient if you are going from trap to trap over acres of land.

"We are aiming to develop an automated system where drones fitted with cameras fly over sticky traps which trap the fly in a way that allows it to be identified from the air."

The university is partnering with Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland and the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands on the project.

Green added: "Our Dutch partners are specialists in image processing, and our aim is to develop an image-capturing and processing system that can recognise the fly and carry out an automatic count in order to determine to what extent they are present in the crop.

"From there a fast alert can be issued to growers and they can undertake the necessary action to prevent damage to their crop."

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