Project to use drones to spray chemicals on desert locusts

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021 00:00 |
A farmer struggles with desert locusts at his farm in Isiolo County. Photo/PD/File

The government has launched a pilot project seeking to deploy drones to control desert locust in Samburu County, Northern Kenya.

Funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office through the Frontier Technologies Hub, the project is a partnership between CABI and Astral-Aerial, a technology firm.

CABI is a global non-profit organisation that provides information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment.

Dr Ivan Rwomushana, CABI project manager, said initiative targets roosting populations of small locust swarms that are not feasible to spray by other means such as aircraft, or vehicle mounted sprayers.

Use of drones will combine technology and local expertise to spray and kill the swarms.

Each drone can cover 22 acres per hour, operate for up to 10 hours a day, and carry up to 16 litres of spray solution for every spray run.

The drones can target otherwise inaccessible areas like roosting locusts atop trees; inaccessible areas or agricultural and inhabited areas unsuitable for aircraft.

The drones will carry environmentally friendly insecticides to reduce pollution.

Once completed, the project will be extended to spray swarms in other locations in East Africa where locusts have invaded.

Experts say drones have the ability for surveillance as well as control operations targeting small swarms.

“The project aims at developing guideline that could be adopted for safe, effective and efficient use of drones.

It also aims to determine the cost-effective benefit for drone use said DR Rwomushana. 

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