Drone Trial to Control Destructive Weed | Illawarra Shoalhaven Joint Organisation

This year’s Illawarra District Weeds Authority Bitou Bush management program will take a much more innovative and targeted approach to previous years. The Weeds Authority will trial a targeted surveillance and control program that uses a drone to help manage Bitou Bush, the invasive weed that threatens native plant and animal species and Endangered Ecological Communities along our coast.

Bitou Bush is an aggressive weed in coastal dune and headland vegetation where it can out-compete, and in many cases totally eliminate, the native flora. Bitou Bush forms dense shrub layers which can obscure entire sand dunes and change views of headlands and beaches. The most destructive impact of Bitou Bush is a reduction of coastal biodiversity in infested areas. Bitou Bush is listed as a Weed of National Significance and it is already directly affecting a number of threatened species and plant communities in the Illawarra.

The use of drones is a completely different way to target the plant. Intelligent flight control with the assistance of the onboard technology, allows drones to achieve unimaginable precision, giving the drones the ability to be both targeted and versatile. They will be used to map out the target area and then with pinpoint accuracy control the plant via spot spraying. This will eliminate the need for abseilers to spot spray around cliff faces and other hard to reach places. Spray drift becomes minimal due to the precision and targeted accuracy of the drones.

The Weeds Authority 2021 program will also continue using the traditional control techniques of manual removal, revegetation and ground-based spraying. The drone technology will be trialled along a section of cliff line on vacant Crown Land south of Kiama using Met Mac 600®, a low toxicity unscheduled selective herbicide.

The trial follows a similar program undertaken by MidCoast Council in 2020, which achieved very promising results. The trial is scheduled to be undertaken on the 26th October and should be completed within the day weather conditions permitting.

Surveillance and control activities are unlikely to interfere with reserve activities, due to the remote nature of the site. There will be signage and staff on the ground to inform any people in the immediate area.

This work is funded through the NSW Government’s Crown Reserves Improvement Fund Program.