Bots v bugs

City of Bayswater mosquito guru Don Sorensen, OmniDrone pilots Michael Jeal and Winston Gavriel, Friends of Berringa Park Group VP David Crispin, and the DJI Agras T10 25kg commercial drone.

DRONES are using teamwork to fight mosquitos and disease in a trial around Bayswater’s infested Berringa and Baigup wetlands.

Bayswater council brought in the big bots from OmniDrone and they’re the first local government to trial the new drone team technology to wipe out mozzies in hard-to-target spots.

In January they undertook detailed site mapping with pilots controlling baby drones under two kilos to gather detailed topography data. 

The mapping data then gets programmed into whopper commercial drones that can weigh up to 67kg, and it needs to be precise because the big drones fly themselves just five metres above the vegetation to make sure the spraying is targeted.

The bots are usually used for agriculture, autonomously flying over fields and spraying crops with an accuracy perfect to a square inch, but this time they’ll be carrying a payload of mosquito larvicide.

Bayswater mayor Filomena Piffaretti said in the trial announcement this week: “To protect the important ecosystem within the area, we only use 

a biological larvicide, which is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that specifically targets mosquito larvae only, without harming any other aquatic, local wildlife or surrounding vegetation. 

“This is the most environmentally friendly way to eradicate the mosquitoes before they can breed into adults.”

Mozzies are thriving in Bayswater, Bassendean and Belmont foreshores in pools of stagnant water surrounded by bush and mushy ground that can’t be reached by sprayers on foot or amphibious ride-ons.

The salt marsh mozzies are being wiped out over concerns they can carry Ross River Virus and Barmah Virus. It’s more common up north and sometimes in the South West, but it can reach Perth in years when it’s the right mix of warm and wet for the virus to thrive.

Bayswater’s only had a couple of RRV cases in recent years, but the viruses have no vaccine or cure and in some cases can cause long-term exhaustion and pain. 

Peak mosquito time is December to April, but last year as the warm weather lingered there was an  unseasonably late second spike in the metro area.

If this trial works out Bayswater will likely bring the bots back for another bots versus bugs mission next summer.

by DAVID BELL

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