UAVs/ Drones for Agriculture and Plant Biosecurity

UAVs/ Drones for Agriculture and Plant Biosecurity

Why it matters

“PBCRC2135 – Optimising Surveillance Protocols Using Unmanned Aerial Systems” investigated how to:

  • Use and create airborne systems (e.g uavs, RPAS, drones) that can understand and respond to their environments in order to augment our capacity to perceive, think and act
  • design innovative sensing and visualisation tools from airborne datasets so that governments, businesses, citizens and consumers can more easily access and digest large volumes of data
  • explore how airborne data can be used for new frontiers in mathematical models, analytics and control strategies that facilitate the rapid integration, dissemination and interpretation of large and complex data sets and improve decisions.


This project investigated the sensitivities and capacity of emerging unmanned aerial systems (UASs) and imaging technologies for biosecurity surveillance in viticulture, horticultural and grain industries. The overarching aim is to investigate the use of these technologies to support claims of pest freedom and low pest prevalence compared to commonly deployed surveillance practices and utility, to inform pest management decisions for established species.

The aim of this project was to use predictive models combined with high-resolution detection technologies to increase sampling efficiency and improve first detection rates.

The project objectives were:

  1. Modelling region-wide environmental changes to identify criteria for selecting high-risk surveillance areas and compare these predictors to current selection methods deployed by biosecurity personnel;
  2. Prioritise sampling times and areas within targeted areas to direct surveillance efforts and increase rate of first detection using higher-resolution surveillance technologies (fixed-wing UAVs) and unique spectral signatures;
  3. Evaluate utility of higher-resolution cameras and robotic technologies on multi-rotor UASs to categorise and/or collect target pests on different plant structures for identification by trained diagnosticians; and
  4. Synthesise modelling and improved UAS technologies to demonstrate a practical application for surveillance of high priority plant pests in commercial crops.

Milestones & Achievements

  • Integration of multi-spectral and thermal sensor technologies with UAS on multi-rotor completed;
  • Initial identification of farms for all case studies;
  • Initial identification of end-user/reference team and development of an engagement plan

Funding / Grants

  • Plant Biosecurity CRC (2014 - 2018)

Other Team Members

Prof Brian McCornack (K-State University) John Weiss Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources Plant Biosecurity CRC  Dr Grant Hamilton (QUT)