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Tree identification and Dutch elm disease detection using UAVs

SPS Biota have collaborated with ENVICO Technologies to use drones to enhance traditional field surveys for diseased elm trees. We have recognized the potential for drones to assist in the surveillance of large parcels of land, places with difficult access or areas that contain hazards for field staff. 

The pilot study was undertaken in 13 ha of Pukekohe Park where there is a wide variety of large established trees including a number of different species of elms. ENVICO pre-loaded the flight path requiring minimal hands-on piloting of the drone for the 25-minute flights.

The results of the pilot study confirmed that the resultant HD 4K video output of the drone camera was clear enough to distinguish most of the elms from the other species present. Selected filters applied over the ortho--mosaic images could further detect unthrifty or diseased trees.

SPS Biota is confident the use of UAV technology can now be integrated into several existing biosecurity and pest-specific survey programmes it conducts.    

- Darryn Horrell, Biosecurity Advisor and Paul Bradbury, Director

Photos taken by Geoff Carlaw.