Robots ResQu rainforest from purple plague

Australia's rare and precious rainforests, like the iconic Daintree region of Australia, could have an unexpected aerial ally in the battle against weeds - autonomous helicopters. 

Two Project ResQu helicopters developed by CSIRO completed trial flights near Cairns, locating weeds like the dreaded 'purple plague', Miconia calvescens, faster and more reliably than ever. Developed by robotics researchers at CSIRO, in partnership with Biosecurity Queensland, the unmanned helicopters found weeds using sophisticated imaging technology. The helicopters are safer and a more convenient way of mapping weeds in remote and difficult terrain.

We built the prototypes over two years and trialed them in difficult conditions," robotics researcher Dr Torsten Merz said. "They performed better than expected, finding Miconia plants in dense rainforest that hadn't been spotted before. Once the invasive plant is identified, they are removed from the rainforest."

Queensland Science Minister Ian Walker said the robotic helicopter played a key role in protecting native flora from weeds and was a good example of using new technology to provide better outcomes.

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Image credit: CSIRO