Robots to the ResQu for Australia’s Rainforests

Robotics researchers at CSIRO, in partnership with Biosecurity Queensland, have succcessfully designed and trialed two autonomous helicopters, developed to detect threatening weed species in Australia’s rare and precious rainforests.

The project, dubbed Project ResQu, has executed trials in the El Arish Rainforest near Cairns, successfully detecting and mapping weed growth in remote areas otherwise inaccessible by man. The trial located growth of a number of noxious weeds, including Miconia Calvescens (or the ‘purple plague’) that had not previously been noticed in areas deep within the dense rainforest. The detection of these areas of growth has allowed for early intervention, and the weeds will be removed.

The new sophisticated imaging technology will make locating weeds faster and more reliable than ever, allowing for early eradication before they can cause irreversible damage to our native plant and wildlife populations.

CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship Science Director, Dr Gary Fitt, said “In the biosecurity space effective surveillance is critical – we need to be able to detect incursions quickly and accurately. Technologies like the autonomous helicopter or other autonomous platforms provide us with another tool in the fight against these biological invasions […] The helicopters can navigate obstacles without human control while recording locations and images for biosecurity staff to scan for evidence of weeds.”

Queensland Science Minister Ian Walker said the robotic helicopter played a key role in protecting native flora from weeds, offering a money saving approach to boosting biosecurity and carrying out more effective mapping.

About Project ResQu:
Project ResQu is a two-year, $7M project led by the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA) in a collaborative project between the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), CSIRO, Boeing and Insitu Pacific with the support of the Queensland State Government Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts. Find out more here.