This company wants to sell military-grade drones to Australian farmers

Ninox Robotics unmanned aerial vehicle taking off during a trial. Image: Supplied

Australian startup Ninox Robotics is trialling high-tech surveillance drones to assist Australian farmers with pest control in remote rural areas.

The drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are different to other aerial pest detection methods because they are fitted with dual-payload cameras that can switch between normal and far infrared (thermal) image detection. This means they can detect images at night, which is when a lot of rural pests are most active.

The trials, carried out over three weeks in southern Queensland and northern NSW, have been designed to test the effectiveness of the drone’s thermal imaging camera.

Marcus Ehrlich, managing director of Ninox Robotics, said he hopes to gain regulatory approval in order to commercialise the service in the coming months. He has a team of fully trained UAV pilots ready to be deployed across the country.

“Australian landholders and managers have been struggling against the problem of invasive pest species for decades, including feral dogs, pigs, deer and rabbits,” he said.

“We are confident that come commercialisation, Ninox Robotics will be able to offer an array of smart, high tech options for Australian government agencies and landholders in dealing with a variety of problems afflicting our continent.”

In order to gain regulatory approval the drones had to meet the following criteria:

  • An enhanced flight ceiling of over 400m, enabling Ninox Robotics’ systems to cover more ground efficiently;
  • Flight range beyond visual line of sight, all autonomously; and
  • The ability to fly at night, thereby enabling the thermal camera to be at its most effective.

So, how does it work?

The drones are sent out to scan remote areas of rural properties and the video captured is streamed live to ground control stations manned by trained UAV pilots. Once pests or problems are detected, the team sends out a team to deal with the problem.

Ninox put together a video which shows the results of the initial trials in southern Queensland. Test subjects included a successful mock rescue of a missing person, finding the source of small brush fires, cataloging a mob of sheep and locating feral pigs and dogs.

You can check out the trial footage below.

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