Pests control in crops can be a laborious and difficult task, often involving the use of chemicals which can leave residues in the final product. Pesticides are a great concern on human health due to their toxic nature, persistency, lipophilicity, and bioaccumulation. Monitoring insect populations can help reducing the quantities of pesticide treatments and limiting the concentrations of harmful chemicals. What if we exploit modern technology to keep track of insect offspring and to mechanically eliminate harmful insect species?
PATS Indoor Drone Solutions offers an innovative method to control insect spreading and to selectively get rid of flying pests. By using drones, the monitoring and prevention of harmful species in crops is less time consuming than employees scouting activities. Additionally, tracking pest populations can be more accurate, leading to less pesticide treatments or avoiding them all together by eradicating harmful pests with the drone itself.
Terpenes & Testing Magazine interviewed PATS Indoor Drone Solutions to know more about their advanced pest control method.
How are your drones “bio-inspired”?
We got our inspiration from bats that hunt insects like moths at night. First inspiration is that you need complex detection methods. For the bat this is sonar; we use vision. Vision is complex as moths fly in the dark and do not radiate heat. Second, the moth tries to escape its predator, meaning that you need very agile and swift hunting tactics on the drone, just like bats are able to do.
How do the drones specifically target harmful pests?
Our vision system keeps an eye on its environment and tracks all insects. When a harmful moth is detected, the vision system controls the nearby connected drone, which sits idle on a charging platform, and sends the drone lighting fast into the flight path of the moth. This is a continuous process, as the moth is flying a random path. When the drone collides with the moth, the propeller mechanically eliminates the insect, after which the drone returns to be recharged to ensure continuous and autonomous operations.
What if there are beneficial insects present as well? Can the drones differentiate between harmful and beneficial organisms?
Our vision system tracks insects and controls the drone. It distinguishes one insect from the other. This way we can classify insects, harmful from beneficial. It also enables us to exactly pinpoint which specific moth (pest) we are looking at.
What are some downstream risks of continued usage of pesticides on our planet and what levels of pesticide reduction can this technology offer?
As pests are increasingly “shipped” around the globe and as temperatures rise, new invasive species adapt in geographies where they find little or no predators. Fighting these pests with numerous pesticide spraying rounds helps them build up resistance against these (bio)chemicals making matters worse, as more spraying will be used. A number of chemicals are known to have negative effects on human health and pollinators/insects.
An example is Tuta absoluta (tomato leaf miner), a small moth, originating in South America, and found in Spain in 2007. Only 10 years later, this pest has spread everywhere in Europe, and it is now already in 60%(!) of all tomato crops grown globally.
Do you see your products as being useful to the cannabis industry for insects like aphids or spider mites?
We currently target flying insects with relatively large sizes (>8 mm wingspan and up). Aphids and spider mites are unlikely, as they fly little or not. However, we plan to address all kinds of flying pests and insects as camera technology evolves. Pats Indoor Drone Solutions had questions from cannabis growers that actually do suffer from caterpillars (offspring) of moths in their crop, so it could be certainly relevant, either for monitoring purposes or eventually for control of adults, preventing the spreading of harmful offspring.