Can drones be used for insect pest control?

30 June 2021
New pest management strategies are being sought to combat against insects including increased use of drones. Source: Entomological Society of America

Chalk up another future use case for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) as researchers look to use the machines to fight insect infestations.

The Entomological Society of America is investigating new pest-management strategies that use drones for detection and control.

"Ten years ago, there was not much happening in the space in terms of entomologists deploying UAS for pest management," said Nathan Moses-Gonzales, CEO of M3 Agriculture Technologies, who compiled the research.

However, the doors have now been opened for collaborations between entomologists and drone developers as well as the evolution of UAS technology that has enabled this type of research.

Drones can help with insect control by:

  • Locating and sampling standing water for mosquito larvae.
  • Improving accuracy of insecticide by targeting mosquito larvae and adults.
  • Applying pheromones over cranberry beds to disrupt mating of fruitworms and blackheaded fireworms.
  • Taking photos of tree canopies in winter to observe cocoons of moth Monema flavescens.
  • Delivering and releasing predator and parasitoid insects to target European corn borer and eastern spruce budworm.
  • Sterilizing Mexican fruit flies and codling moths to suppress the population.

The next steps are to refine drone technology in the pest management context and integrate automation and artificial intelligence.

This is not the first-time researchers have experimented with drone use and insect control. Earlier this year, XAG announced a pilot program to use drones to combat locust invasions in China.

The full research can be found in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

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