Pakistan develops drones to prevent locust attack on crops
Islamabad: On Tuesday Pakistan revealed locally developed drones to fight against locust attack on crops.
Pakistan-made “drones will revolutionize the country’s agriculture industry”, the Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said, sharing the photo of drones on Twitter.
An agreement was signed by the Pakistan’s Ministry of Science and Technology with a private company, ABM-SATUMA, for the agricultural application and production of drones to fight against locust crisis and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will be handed with all the drones.
Drones to help Pakistan save crops, achieve better productivity
“The ministry is now focusing on precision farming with the introduction of drone technology to enhance agricultural productivity,” Minister Fawad said, inspiring youngsters to work on agritech startups.
CEO of surveillance and Target Unmanned Aircraft (ABM-SATUMA), Dr Sulieman Ashraf said, to help farmers save their crops and achieve efficiency drones are being developed and this was decided by the company that has been working with the country’s defence industry for over two decades. The hexacopter drone has six propellers and has the carrying capacity of about 16kg, which means it can spray up to 16 litres of pesticide in about 15-18 minutes and because of drones farmers will be protected from exposure to harmful chemicals and they will also save their time and cost. Dr, Ashraf said. “The manual spraying that takes more than one hour can be done in 5 minutes using the drone.”
Don’t buy, just rent a drone
Now full advantage of drone technology can be taken by the Pakistani farmers to save crops. According to the experts drones are simple, fast, affordable and easy to use. They have reduced one third of the cost of the agricultural drones because of local production. But can the farmers afford the drone? “Farmers don’t have to buy or own the drones. We would introduce a rent-a-drone service similar to Uber, that would connect farmers with the drone as per their requirement,” Minister Fawad explained.
Pandemic and locust threat scale up local production
Local companies have to develop and scale up manufacturing of made in Pakistan products because of the dual threat of the coronavirus pandemic and locust swarms. Drones production have been started at a high-tech industry National Radio Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC) that has also developed Pakistan-made ventilators introduced by Prime minister Imran Khan.
How can drones help farmers?
The drones will be used to to spray pesticides as nearly 60 districts in all provinces of Pakistan are battling an invasion of desert locusts devouring crops. Spraying of pesticides using drones is far more effective than using traditional methods such as vehicle-mounted sprayers, experts say.
“Pakistan’s drone technology is among the world’s most advanced,” Federal Fawad said in an earlier post retweeting a demonstration video regarding drone.
BENEFITS OF USING DRONES FOR FARMERS
The technology can help farmers:
- Monitor crop health and growth
- Assist in planning irrigation schedules
- Optimise the use of inputs (seed, fertilizers, water)
- Pest surveillance to react quickly to threats
- Asses yield data
- Soil and field analysis
- Crop spraying
What has Pakistan done so far to overcome the locust challenge?
In 32 affected districts of Pakistan, an anti-locust operation has been conducted covering 2.6 million acres of area. According to National Locust Control (NLCC) data there were 1028 joint teams in total comprising over 5226 people and 676 vehicles took part in anti-locusts operations including aerial spraying. Meanwhile biopesticides are being developed by the Pakistan’s University of Agriculture Faisalabad to combat locusts.
The locust invasion has been declared a national emergency to fight the worst locust plague in decades. According to the FAO report 38% of the Pakistan land is a potential breeding ground for locusts. Ministry for food estimated the losses to agriculture from locusts could be between a minimum of Rs 490 billion and up to Rs 2.451 trillion in the worst-case scenario.
Locust situation may worsen in the coming weeks (July15 – september15) and because of this Pakistan rushed the production of drones.
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