Tackling biosecurity threats with robots and sensors

We are developing robotic and sensor systems to assist in surveying, monitoring and tracking pests and diseases and improve efficiency and capability in biosecurity systems.

The Challenge

Improving efficiency in biosecurity surveillance and monitoring

Historically Australia has had an extremely successful biosecurity track record, however, declining resources and investment means that we have to keep delivering effective biosecurity with less.

Autonomous systems and the use of sensor technology will help improve efficiency, and will be particularly important for surveillance in remote locations where field workers need to cover vast distances, as well as for reducing costs and strengthening health and safety where the work is labour intensive or undertaken in dangerous situation.

Our Response

New technologies for detection, surveillance, diagnosis and response

Sensors already play a role across the biosecurity landscape, from monitoring environmental conditions to tracking the movement of animals, plants and diseases.

With advancements in automation, there are opportunities to apply these sensors to unmanned vehicles and systems, enabling surveillance to be extended into areas that are not easily accessible to people. Unmanned vehicles (like CSIRO’s starbug) have, for a number of years, been roaming the sea monitoring and surveying ocean ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef.

Current research in plant biosecurity is exploring the use of maturing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, with advanced sensors to collect large amounts of detailed information that can be used for plant health monitoring or early pest detection, for example our research to find the invasive weed, Miconia.

Autonomous systems can also be used to undertake surveillance on hard-to-track animals such as flying foxes, which are nocturnally active and can travel vast distances.

Flying foxes are a major player in the biodiversity stakes, their ecological role serves to pollinate and disperse seeds of trees including our iconic Eucalyptus.  However, they are also the natural host of the deadly Hendra virus.

The near real-time data captured by these flying foxes can serve as an input to analytical models that help predict the future movement of pests and diseases.

Through the use of analytical models and advanced sensors, the future generation of autonomous systems has the potential to evolve to a closed-loop system that incorporates both automated detection and response capabilities.

Case studies

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