Drones in support of sustainable rural development in Ethiopia
Our proposal is submitted by the Joint Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Use of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture in support of the ongoing Southern Tsetse Eradication Project under the Ethiopian Ministry of Livestock and with the invaluable participation of Embention, who developed the prototype.
It is an initiative to control tsetse-transmitted trypanosomosis in Ethiopian agrarian regions in accordance with the Ethiopian government’s Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) and the Country Program Framework (CPF).
This will be achieved through the seeding of a Sterile Insect Technique, whereby sterile male flies will be released into the indigenous population. Release densities of 100 sterile males per square kilometre will be applied every week in eradication programmes.
The UAV takes advantage of the lightweight and the low density of sterile tsetse flies to be released in the target areas on the other side.
The UAV, currently in the testing phase, is required to overfly the target areas following a predefined path track at an altitude of 300 meters above the vegetation canopy. Along the flight, the automated release machine drops the insects at predefined rates according to its position.
The flight itineraries have been designed to cover the suitable tsetse habitat, which has been mapped using prediction distribution models, such as MAXENT, and satellite imagery from MODIS. Autonomous flights following pre-set flight plans, autonomous take-off and runway landing are among the mandatory specifications.
The UAV has a minimum endurance of 2 hours flying with the payload of 2 kg at a cruise speed of 20 m/s.
Chilled, pre-prepared sterile males are loaded into small biodegradable boxes and into precooled pods under the drone wings. Inside the pods, a chamber of phase change material keeps the temperature at the required level, preventing the flies from becoming active but not causing them any damage. During the flight, the pod releases the boxes at predefined coordinates in the target area. 5,000 flies can be released per flight, covering an area of around 100 km2.
The first prototype of the UAS including the release system has already been produced and tested locally by Embention. In the coming months, it will be shipped to Ethiopia to be tested under real field conditions.
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