Trailblazing drones trial to beat mozzies and protect environment

In a South-East Queensland first, Redland City Council is trialling drones as a tool for managing mosquitoes in hard-to-reach and environmentally sensitive areas within Moreton Bay Marine Park.

Mayor Karen Williams said the six-month trial had exciting potential for Redlands Coast, where mosquitoes are endemic due to its natural environment.

“We are leading the way as one of the first councils in our region to use drones as part of our Mosquito Management Program,” Cr Williams said.

“Of course, safety is our number one concern. The chemicals used in the drone trial are safe for people and their pets, environmentally friendly and only target mosquito larvae.

“They are the same as those used in Council’s regular ground and helicopter treatments.”

“Treatment via drone has proven successful and now it’s hoped the program can be expanded to protect our sensitive environments as well as the wellbeing of Redlands Coast residents.”

From left, Redland City Mayor Karen Williams, Mozzie Taskforce Chairman and Division 3 Councillor Paul Golle, Proagco Director Brendon Hare and Council Pest Management Team Coordinator Russell Manby.

Due to finish at the end of this mosquito breeding season, the focus of the trial has been on Geoff Skinner Wetlands Reserve at Wellington Point; Point Halloran Conservation Area at Victoria Point; German Church Road wetlands at Mt Cotton; and Rocky Passage Road at Redland Bay.

Cr Williams said agricultural digital solutions provider Proagco supplied two sorts of drones for the trial.

“The smaller drones were equipped with many cameras to pinpoint and map mozzie breeding grounds, with two larger ones used to transport and deliver the chemical directly over mosquito breeding sites,” she said.

“After rain events, our high-density hard-to-reach conservation areas that are lush with mangroves and casuarinas typically contain puddles of water that present prime breeding grounds for mosquito larvae.

“These environmentally sensitive areas are often difficult to access and require officers to travel by foot to apply treatments manually by hand, wearing 25kg backpack blowers.

“Access to other areas might also require the use of the Argo and quad bikes.

“Drones are proving much more versatile, with the ability to travel direct to the breeding site to deliver chemical that is target-specific and only toxic to mosquito larvae.

“This method is increasing the efficacy of treatments while also improving safety for Council officers by reducing manual handling, heat stress and fatigue.”

Regional Mosquito Management Group Chairman Cr Paul Golle said the trial showed drones could be used in treating up to 40 per cent of existing mosquito breeding sites currently treated by hand.

“They also have potential to treat sites presently inaccessible by foot or helicopter,” he said.

“Drone supplier Proagco has collaborated to progressively modify their drones as Council officers discovered how the new technology enables them to better deliver mosquito larvicides effectively.

“Key modifications have enabled the drones to deliver granules, sand and pellets and, with the capacity to fly at up to 30m high.

“Using the drone we are now able to treat two hectares of mosquito breeding sites in about 10 minutes.”

Proagco director Brendon Hare said the $50,000 large drones were originally designed to sow seeds and powdered products in China.

“What we have achieved in working with Redlands’ Mosquito Management Program, developing ways to allow Council to use drones for mosquito control in many different and difficult-to-access settings, is leading-edge technology,” Mr Hare said.