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Bitou Bush Surveillance UAV trial

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Bitou bush has the ability to out compete and smother native coastal dune vegetation.  Infestations within the Great Sandy National Park have been dramatically reduced since the 1980’s, with only isolated plants being found in the field today.

Ground surveillance is a collaborative effort, currently carried out twice a year by Biosecurity Queensland (BQ), Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) staff and contractors, and Fraser Coast Regional Council (FCRC). Teams survey densely vegetated areas in an emu parade fashion to maximise detection of both mature plants and seedlings.


QUT drone searches for Fraser Island Bitou Bush – photo courtesy of Biosecurity Queensland

Some of the coastal vegetation on southern K’gari has become too dense, making it nearly impenetrable for ground surveillance.  The risk of not detecting plants in this area has become high due to lack of visibility.  Another technique of surveillance and detection is required to ensure eradication.

Aerial surveillance is expensive and arduous.  BQ and QPWS in partnership with Aspect UAV Imaging are working to develop suitable UAV technology to enhance bitou bush surveillance.  Test flights have been carried out to determine the required camera resolution, the flight height which provided suitable resolution and the amount of overlap using a systematic pattern over the test area.

The Queensland University of Queensland (QUT) and Aspect UAV are working on enhancement of the images post-flight to aid in the detection by using a program that can automatically detect bitou through colour enhancement.  With a large collaboration through multi agencies, the development of UAV technology will soon become an annual part of bitou bush surveillance in Queensland.

Article and photo contributed by Stacy Harris, Biosecurity Queensland


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