UAE: How drones can be used to ward off deadly pests in farms, monitor wildlife


A drone that autonomously detects harmful pests that impact crop yields and monitors wildlife was among the technologies displayed at the UAE Innovates exhibition in Expo 2020 Dubai.

Empowered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the drone aims to reduce food loss by 90 per cent across the UAE through early detection of Red Palm Weevil, a deadly pest wiping out date palms, and autonomous pollination of palm trees.

The drone’s use has also been expanded to detect worms in corn fields and monitor wildlife in protected areas.

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Mohammad Almoosa, CEO of the developing company Code Three Fourteen, said the technology aims to ensure food security, a major focus of the UAE government.

The UAE-based agricultural tech company is currently working with ministries, government entities and private companies to produce higher crop yields across the country.

According to UN figures, the world’s population is expected to increase to 9.7 billion in 2050, with not enough global crop fields. Agricultural productivity will have to rise by at least 60%, and may need to more than double, according to researchers

Almoosa said drone technologies help in saving the crop yields without affecting the environment at the same time.

“We are in need of technologies that ensure sufficient food supply for future populations. The drone does this by detecting and fighting harmful pests affecting crop yields,” noted Almoosa.

The drone collects the data, which is then incorporated into an AI system to improve the algorithms into detecting and predicting infected trees. “The more data we collect, the more accurate the algorithms become. So right now, we are focused on collecting as much data as possible.”

The drone has achieved 60 per cent accuracy in Red Palm Weevil detection. “Through more data collection, we aim to raise the accuracy rate to 90 per cent by third quarter of this year,” said Almoosa.

A report with the data is then handed to the relevant entity to take the right course of action to increase crop yields.

The company is currently eyeing university partners to harness young talents in coding and software to develop the AI systems. So far, research and strategic partners include UAE University (UAEU) in Al Ain and India Institute of Technology (IIT).

“Platforms like Expo 2020 help us in meeting like-minded individuals from different government entities and sharing knowledge with people using the same technologies,” said Almoosa.

The Expo 2020 exhibition is part of “UAE Innovates”, a nation-wide festival that celebrates and promotes innovation in government departments.

The exhibition runs from February 11 to February 16.

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