Despite the increasing use of biopesticides and predator insects, growers are often unable to avoid using chemical pesticides in greenhouse cultivation. Delft company PATS is developing a system that uses micro-drones to actively hunt and eliminate flying insect pests. Its current applications include the cultivation of gerbera and chrysanthemum cut-flowers. PATS have obtained funding from the UNIIQ clean tech investment fund in Holland to develop the system for use with other greenhouse crops.
To date research has focused on controlling moths (caterpillar damage to crops). As soon as a flying moth is detected by monitoring cameras installed throughout the greenhouse, a drone is activated from the base station and directed towards the moth at lightning speed. It collides with the insect which is destroyed by the drone’s rotating propellers. The drone then returns to the base station to recharge for the next zapping mission.
By using the investment from UNIIQ to strengthen its R&D team, PATS will accelerate product development, expand its knowledge base and reduce time to market. This innovative application has the potential to assist growers in protected cultivations and can be made selective so as to hunt only those insects potentially damaging to a given crop. The system is patented and developed in collaboration with TU Delft.
Source: Innovation Quarter, Holland Image courtesy of PATS.
Comment: From an ecological point of view, this represents yet another instrument to kill insects that damage crop yields and quality, thereby directed first and foremost by economic interests. Insect pests that damage greenhouse crops, if they gain access, are still part of the total ecological balance externally and following the rapid decline in honeybee populations, all insects are now under severe pressure from human activities, through the application of insecticides, biopesticides, predator insects, electromagnetic radiation, and now drones. This is therefore an appeal to other innovative-minded companies to follow ecological monitoring and realize means to protect or reproduce those insects most in decline or at risk of extinction. Such activities will also reveal themselves as contributing economically to our lives by safeguarding the biosphere. ENB Research scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), have discovered that the populations of nearly 2,700 species of insects monitored at 300 sites across three states in Germany, have declined by frightening levels between one third and 40% (grassland species). See euronews report.