GRAZIERS up against one of nature’s smartest hunters may now be able to enlist a new age in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle technology to help them combat the threat of wild dogs.
Sydney businessman Marcus Ehrlich has put thermal imaging with the latest warfare techniques and come up with what he describes as a quantum leap for Australian agriculture’s capability to control invasive pest species, and is now looking for property owners in different parts of Australia willing to help him test his drones.
He began his company, Ninox Robotics around six months ago after reading two books that made a strong impression on him – Jared Diamond’s Collapse and a book on UAV technology called Wired for War, which discusses the rise of robotics since the first war in Iraq.
“The first one talked about how we’d introduced a whole heap of nasties to our continent and the second one talked about capabilities such as range, ease of operation and cost, that I thought could address our problems,” Marcus said.
“I have a manufacturing partner with experience. We are using off-the-shelf technology and adapting it to civilian use, utilising thermal imaging and providing real time data, covering a large amount of territory autonomously, quickly and accurately.”
As many graziers would attest, when they call in a chopper to help them hunt down a recently sighted wild dog, they often go to ground and can’t be found.
Marcus believes that with infra-red imaging, it will be harder for them to hide, and he has a proposal before CASA to trial his theory in three different parts of Australia, flying over different terrains and testing that the system can tell the difference between different animals.
“The naked eye is the current way of dealing with pest control.
“I have a screen so the user can see what the UAV is seeing, and have developed an application that will GPS where the animal is spotted.
“The principal method of dealing with wild dogs is to shoot them, so this can pinpoint their location.
“It’s like a scout going out ahead of the infantry – it will tell you where to go.”
Marcus envisages multiple stages of development with his patent pending system, starting with the reconnaissance idea and moving onto bait delivery once the first stage is proven.
He sees this as offering greatly increased accuracy by delivering baits only to where they are needed, and cost savings over helicopter and aeroplane delivery, with less wages to pay.
While he was unwilling to say how much it would cost to use or hire such a system until the prototype had been fully developed and was in commercial production, he said it was extremely cost competitive with existing aerial platforms.
“I just hope high technology will let Australia get the best from its land in this Asian century, when there’s going to be more demand for product from the land,” he said.
People interested in helping prove up the prototype can contact Marcus at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0408 991 563.