Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Pats

Combatting greenhouse pests with drones

Agriculture & Energy

One startup is hoping that its drones will make pesticides a thing of the past

Spotted: Greenhouses are great for producing food in areas with sub-optimal weather. But, the warm, humid conditions and abundant food inside them also make them the perfect environment for pest development – including moths. Moths can enter greenhouses and lay eggs that hatch into caterpillars, which will feed on available plants and damage them. The standard way to eradicate pests is by using pesticides, but these can prove harmful to animal and human health. Now, startup Pats is using drones, instead, to control pest populations.  

To help agriculturalists better understand their pest problem, Pats created PATS-C, its camera vision recognition system that identifies both pests and beneficial insects. The technology automatically scans greenhouses and alerts growers on any changes in pest numbers, with all of this information being regularly updated on the user’s dashboard. 

Working in tandem with PATS-C is the PATS-X, the startup’s new bat-like drone system to target moths. When a moth flies into detection range, a drone starts up and stops the insect mid-flight. Pats also uses infrared cameras to differentiate wingbeat frequency and size, in order to avoid pollinators like bees. 

The drones are effective at removing the moths, both by directly flying into them, and thanks to the noise of their flight, which affects the moth’s flying behaviours. Because the drones produced an ultrasound in the same range as a bat – the moth’s natural predator – the moths would get scared and cease to fly, diving to the ground instead of finding a partner and reproducing. 

The PATS-C is available now and has already been deployed in around 250 greenhouses across Europe. Meanwhile, the PATS-X system is being trialled with customers and is set to be released by the end of 2023. 

Pests are annoying, and many innovations aim to exterminate them while avoiding using toxic chemicals. In the archive, Springwise has spotted real-time pest identification technology and natural alternatives to pesticides.

Written By: Anam Alam




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