AN AUSTRALIAN first was demonstrated at a property near Moonie last week that has the potential to revolutionise pest control from the sky.

Ninox Robotics representatives were at Warrowa to show off their Israeli-military Bluebird Aerosystems drone to farmers and interested agriculture groups.

The drone, which has a three-metre wingspan and a dual-camera system for visual and thermal sighting that makes it night-capable, can stay aloft at 400m for up to four hours at a speed of 120kmh.

Ninox managing director Marcus Erlich said Australian landholders and managers had been struggling with the problem of invasive pest species for decades, including feral dogs, pigs, deer and rabbits.

"With the application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), we have a new weapon in this fight which will provide unparalleled effectiveness in pest detection and enhance existing control techniques," Mr Erlich said.

"It's a quantum leap over any of the current pest intelligence gathering methods available."

READY TO FLY: Ninox representative Daniel Vogelnest about to launch the drone at Warrowa, west of Moonie.
READY TO FLY: Ninox representative Daniel Vogelnest about to launch the drone at Warrowa, west of Moonie. Lynelle Urquhart

At Warrowa, the technology was used to silently detect feral pigs which are a major problem in the area.

Property owner Warren Urquhart wasn't sure if he would deploy the technology as they currently used helicopters with shooters aboard.

"But it could be used to help firefighters and search and rescue," Mr Urquhart said.

While the drones cost "at least six figures" to buy outright, Ninox say they want to work with farmer groups and government agencies once the UAVs have full approval from airspace regulator CASA which they hope to get by the end of the year.

Mr Erlich said he envisaged a single team working with three UAVs.

"A typical sortie of around four hours will cost farmers and government agencies roughly $300," he said.

"Given the losses in the farming sector alone to things like wild dogs, we consider this to be an affordable investment."

About the Spylite drone:

Operational range: 50-80km

Flight time: Four hours

Capability: Visual and infra-red

Speed: 60-120kmh

Max altitude: 1000m

Flight ceiling: 9000m

Wingspan: 275cm

Est cost: $300/flight


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