Scientists in Denmark are developing an insect-dropping ‘eco-drone’ for use in agriculture.
Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark, Aarhus University and technology firm Ecobotix are working on a device said to be able to disperse natural insect predators to tackle aphids and other pests.
With their tanks filled with ladybirds, predatory mites and parasitic wasps, the drones will fly over fields and spread the insects precisely where pests are attacking crops.
According to associate professor Søren Wiatr Borg from the University’s Institute of Technology and Innovation, work is well underway with developing the drone’s spreader to ensure the insects land safely. But working with living insects isn’t easy.
“Predatory mites eat each other if they don’t have anywhere to hide, so we cover them in vermiculite, which is natural soil improving agent, so that they have a place to hide,” he says.
Initially the technology will be tested in fruit crops and Christmas tree plantations, which deliver high yields from relatively small areas, but the researchers believe in the longer term it could be deployed in arable fields.
"Previously, it has been difficult and far too expensive to use nature’s own pest control methods on large areas, but by using the drones it is now possible," Prof Borg adds.
The project has received funding worth 8.4 million kronor (£870,000) from the Danish Government.