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University of Minnesota Extension

Drones can spot invasive Oriental bittersweet vine

June 20, 2017
fixed wing UAV
This fixed wing UAV was also deployed for comparison with the quad-copter.

The Oriental bittersweet vine is known to smother and break trees. The destructive plant has damaged forested areas in southeastern Minnesota. 

Researchers recently launched a drone from Red Wing to test the usefulness of unmanned aerial vehicles to spot invasive plants. The project is part of ongoing efforts to eradicate it. "One of the important things is to find it, so then we can go in and get rid of it," says Angela Gupta, Extension Educator in forestry. Drones can be deployed to areas such as bluffs and river valleys where the landscape is too challenging to search for Oriental bittersweet from the ground

A quadcopter drone, equipped with a camera to record the flight, completed a brief pre-programmed route before returning to land. This test will help determine which sensors to use, the impact of lighting conditions and how best to program the drone's flight pattern.

Oriental bittersweet
Oriental bittersweet, a destructive invasive plant in Minnesota

The research is a joint venture by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, University of Minnesota Extension, Conservation Corps Minnesota and St. Croix River Association. It is funded through an Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund grant.

To learn more about Oriental bittersweet, watch the video Defeating a killer vine: Oriental bittersweet management. You may also read and share this printable brochure

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