My name’s Marcus Bulstrode and I work for
the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. I’m a cane extension officer and I work with
cane growers to support them improving their practices to improve Great Barrier Reef water
quality. This machine is a herbicide or pesticide spray
drone. We’ve mapped some patches of weed within the
paddock earlier, and this machine is capable of going out and just spraying those patches,
so we can use a fraction of the chemical that we did previously. The project that I have going at the moment
is a three year project in collaboration with Innisfail Canegrowers. Jointly between Department of Agriculture
and Canegrowers, we’ve come up with a plan to have this particular machine spray vines
in cane – so Red Convolvulus in particular. If we look here there’s a creek just very
close to the cane paddock, so potentially anything that’s applied to this paddock here
could end up in this waterway moving its way to the great barrier reef. So if we can reduce the amount of herbicides
we put on the cane, that’s going to improve reef water quality. Being able to spray weeds from a drone, really
began with Dick Camilleri, who is a cane farmer from the region. Some years ago he had the idea that instead
of spraying basically the whole paddock – if he could just go out and target the weeds,
he would be able to greatly reduce the amount of herbicide that he puts out. It took a couple of years to get that machine
going and during that time commercial products became available This machine is a DJI product
(DJI Agras MG-1S), it comes out of China and basically it is ab out of the box , ready
to fly spray drone. Over the last few months we’ve been working
with this machine, just to make it a little better suited to the environment we have here
in the Wet Tropics. So what I’m going to do now is put some water
into the machine and run it through the sprayers. The machine is fitted with four spray nozzles,
pairs of these nozzles can be turned off independently. We have changed the spray nozzles in this
machine to optimise the droplet size for the spray activity we’re doing. The nozzle is a very, very important part
of it – and without the right nozzle you can be putting out spray either too much, too
little – without real affect. Prior to going out with spray drone, I take
a much smaller machine which is machine designed for mapping. Very quickly I can just roll in to the image. It’s a very high resolution image – on the
ground I can see an object of two centimetres. You can see the area that does have the vine
in it, we’ll see that the rest of the block is actually quite clean. This is exactly the sort of thing that this
machine is built for – it can go in and fly this zone only. I’ve been able to put its flight path over
the top of the area that we know the vine is in and so the machine will actually move
up and down these rows spraying as it goes to take out the vine. With a full tank of herbicide, which is ten
litres, it can fly for approximately ten minutes. So that means you pre-map the area, you know
where the weeds are, you set up a polygon for the machine to fly – so that’s an area
for it to target with its spray, the machine will take off and then go directly to those
patches and spray them very quickly and of course return. So although you’re only flying for ten minutes,
which seems a very short period of time, you’ve done a lot of the background work to reduce
the time that this machine’s in the air and it does its spraying very quickly. One of the advantages of this machine is that
you can get onto the particular cane block at any time of the year, whether it’s wet
or dry. And of course, it can actually force down
the droplets down through the cane, to be able to get onto the target weed. When I finish spraying I can actually get
a hose and hose it down, which always feels a little bit strange with a very sophisticate
dbit of equipment to be putting the hose on it, but once again, it’s built for the job. This size drone and because its putting out
a registered chemical, requires a very specific accreditation and licencing. This is not a machine for everyone to be able
to fly. You have to have that correct licencing. I would picture in the future that cane co-operative
groups may own a machine or possibly contractors will have the correct licencing and then come
out and be able to do the spray activity.