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Dutch firm uses drones to protect crops from pesky critters

Tuesday, March 9th 2021, 8:36 pm - The drones help growers reduce crop losses, mitigate the use of insecticides and automate a labour intensive process.

When Dutch cress grower Rob Baan needed additional help to thwart off meddling critters, he reached out a Dutch startup and its drone systems.

Baan's company, Koppert Cress, specializes in distributing aromatic seedlings, plants and flowers to restaurants globally, so he wanted to ensure the herbs had an extra layer of protection.

SEE ALSO: U.S. firm deploys drones to replenish forests destroyed by wildfires

“I have unique products where you don’t get certification to spray chemicals and I don’t want it,” Baan said in an interview with The Associated Press.

PATS drone The drones then instantly kill the moths as they fly into them mid-air. Photo: PATS Indoor Drone Solutions.

In to save the day was PATS Indoor Drone Solutions -- a firm that has built small autonomous drone systems to eliminate pest insects. The drones help growers reduce crop losses, mitigate the use of insecticides and automate a labour intensive process.

The machines employs smart technology, aided by special cameras, to scour the airspace in greenhouses, making them much more effective. The drones then instantly kill the moths as they collide into them mid-air.

“So it sees the moth flying by, it knows where the drone is...and then it just directs the drone towards the moth,” said Kevin van Hecke, PATS founder and chief technical officer, in an interview with The Associated Press.

DRONES CAN DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN GOOD AND BAD INSECTS

The drones are part of an arrangement of pest control systems in Baan’s greenhouses, which also features other bugs, pheromone traps and bumblebees.

Alumni from the Technical University in Delft came up with the idea for the drone system after contemplating whether or not the machines could squash pesky mosquitoes in their rooms at night.

PATS Indoor Drone Solutions/drone Smart technology aided by special cameras scours the airspace in greenhouses, making the drones that much more effective. Photo: PATS Indoor Drone Solutions.

Baan said the system is designed in a way that can determine the difference between good and bad critters.

“You don’t want to kill a ladybug, because a ladybug is very helpful against aphids,” he said. “So they should kill the bad ones, not the good ones. And the good ones are sometimes very expensive — I pay at least 50 cents for one bumblebee, so I don’t want them to kill my bumblebees.”

However, PATS Indoor Drone Solutions is still working on ways to improve the technology as the company moves forward.

“It’s still a development product, but we ... have very good results. We are targeting moths and we are taking out moths every night in an autonomous way without human intervention,” PATS CEO Bram Tijmons told The Associated Press. “I think that’s a good step forward.”

Thumbnail courtesy of PATS Indoor Drone Solutions.

With files from The Associated Press.

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