Pakistan all set to use drones to combat locust attack


By Muhammad Luqman
Pakistan has decided to use locally developed drones to fight the locusts, presently causing damage to crops in almost every part of the country.
The neighbouring India has already used drones for the spray of pesticides in the areas under locust attack in the northern state of Rajasthan.
“Pakistan-made “drones will revolutionise the country’s agriculture industry”, Federal Minister for Science & Technology Fawad Hussasin Chaudhry tweeted.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Science and Technology has signed an agreement with a private company, ABM-SATUMA, for the production and agricultural application of the drones to deal with locust attack.
“The ministry is now focusing on precision farming with the introduction of drone technology to enhance agricultural productivity,” Minister Fawad said
Dr Suleiman Ashraf, CEO of Surveillance and Target Unmanned Aircraft (ABM-SATUMA), says that the company has decided to develop drones for the agriculture sector to help farmers save crops and achieve efficiency.
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. The drones designed and manufactured in Pakistan will reduce time and cost of farmers while saving crops and protecting farmers from exposure to harmful chemicals with efficient spraying, Dr Ashraf said. “The manual spraying that takes more than one hour can be done in 5 minutes using the drone.”


Pakistani farmers can now take full advantage of drone technology to save crops. The drones are simple, fast, affordable and easy to use, according to the experts. The local production has reduced the cost of agricultural drones by one-third. 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 Chaudhary said.
The twin-monster of the coronavirus pandemic and locust swarms has mobilised local companies to develop and scale up manufacturing of made in Pakistan products. Drones are also under production at high-tech industry National Radio Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC) that also developed Pakistan-made ventilators introduced by Prime Minister Imran Khan last week.
The drones, equipped with mapping sensors, will be used 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 highly effective as compared traditional methods such as vehicle-mounted sprayers.
“Pakistan’s drone technology is among the world’s most advanced,” Federal Minister Fawad said in an earlier post retweeting a drone demonstration video.
Locust swarms that started their journey from the Eastern Africa last year, have so far affected crops over hundreds of thousands of hectares in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and India in the region.


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