TODAY |

DOC to invest $790k to test new predator-control drone

The Department of Conservation is set to invest $790,000 to test a new predator-control drone in another step to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050.

A drone in flight during a baiting operation. Source: Environment & Conservation Technologies (ECT)

"Restoring nature so indigenous species can thrive requires new tools and technologies for predator control in a way that is humane, safe, effective and affordable," Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said in a statement.

"Drones have the potential to be a game-changer – in helping remove pests from remote offshore islands, respond to pest incursions and suppress predators on mainland New Zealand.

"They may become another of the broad range of tools available to the Department of Conservation (DOC) and landholders to manage predators and restore New Zealand’s unique natural landscapes."

A drone fleet used for aerial baiting operations. Source: Environment & Conservation Technologies (ECT)

Predator-control drones have not previously been used in New Zealand.

Kiwi startup Environment & Conservation Technologies (ECT) will use $790,000 in funding from DOC's Tools to Market programme to test how the drone performs in a series of field trials.

The drones will be equipped with a new light-weight bait spreader to apply non-toxic cereal baits over areas between 600 to 2000ha.

"It will look at the feasibility and costs of drone use for predator control, as well as potential savings in carbon emissions from current aerial methods."