CABI Blog

The sky’s the limit for Violet Ochieng, CABI’s very own KCAA-Certified drone pilot, who visited the UK from Kenya to help strengthen partnerships for greater use of drone technology for precision crop pest management.

Ms Ochieng, Research Officer – Drone Technology, based at CABI’s regional centre for Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, met colleagues from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), Frontier Technologies and Royal Holloway University, UK.

The FCDO funded the CABI-led Kenya-based project ‘Drones for desert locust control in East Africa’ – through the Frontier Tech Hub – together with partners including Astral-Aerial, country governments and the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture & Livestock Development.

Optimum height for spraying locusts

Violet was part of the project and led research – published in the journal Drones – which revealed that the optimum height for spraying locusts with a biopesticide, such as Metarhizium acridum, is 10 metres above the ground.

She found that any height below 10 metres may lead to over-deposition of the biopesticide, while heights above 10 metres may lead to under-application, which may limit exposure of the locusts to Metarhizium spores or pesticide molecules.

The project, in partnership with Astral-Aerial, established key parameters for locust surveillance and spraying, along with standard operating procedures. The insights and experiences gained from this project are now being utilized by other drone operators, researchers, and organizations as a foundation for managing other priority pests.

Violet presenting at the IT Bootcamp at CABI’s corporate headquarters in Wallingford, UK.
 

Significant potential for collaboration

Violet took the opportunity on her visit to the UK to meet the directors of the Omnidrome Research and Innovation Centre at Royal Holloway University to see discuss areas for future collaboration and test fly a drone in their indoor facility.

The Omnidrome Research and Innovation Centre trains students in using drones for agriculture and geology to solve societal problems and offers a controlled environment for drone and robotic testing.

She also met Michael Reddaway, Senior Advisor at FCDO, and David Vigoureux, a Frontier Technologies Coach, at the FCDO offices in London where she updated them on her latest research.

Violet said, “Our discussions revealed significant potential for collaboration between CABI and Royal Holloway University on various projects, with Royal Holloway University providing ideal conditions for pre-field trial testing and drone training.”

Keynote address on the use of drones

She also took part in an IT Bootcamp at CABI’s corporate headquarters in Wallingford, UK, where she gave a keynote address on the use of drones to monitor crop health and provide early pest outbreak alerts.

Her talk also considered how drones can further be used to assess damage for yield loss estimation, apply control agents like pesticides and natural enemies, and evaluate the impact of control methods.

Flying a drone in in the Omnidrome Research and Innovation Centre at Royal Holloway University.

Ms Ochieng, in describing the ‘Drones for desert locust control in East Africa’ project, said, “In partnership with Astral-Aerial, CABI piloted this innovative approach, establishing key parameters for locust surveillance and spraying, along with standard operating procedures.

“The insights and experiences gained from this project are now being utilized by other drone operators, researchers, and organizations as a foundation for managing other priority pests.”

Expanding scientific knowledge and evidence

She added that CABI is committed to expanding scientific knowledge and evidence on the use of drones in agriculture. The organization focuses on the potential of drones to monitor crop health, provide early pest outbreak alerts, assess damage for yield loss estimation, apply control agents like pesticides and natural enemies, and evaluate the impact of control methods.

Violet’s five-day visit to the UK was marked by productive presentations, insightful discussions, and promising collaborations.

“From the IT Bootcamp to the visit to Royal Holloway University and the meeting with FCDO, these interactions have paved the way for further collaborations in drone technology for agriculture and environmental conservation,” she said. “We are dedicated to leveraging drone technology for agricultural advancements and environmental conservation.”

Additional information

Main image: Violet Ochieng with the directors of the Omnidrome Research and Innovation Centre at Royal Holloway University.

Frontier Tech Hub blog

See also the blog ‘Researcher to drone operator: meeting Violet again.’

Relevant stories

‘Study determines optimum height for drones to fly and target desert locusts with biopesticide.’

‘Exhibition of the DroneSight for Desert Locusts Management during Nairobi Innovation Week at the University of Nairobi.’

‘Carol Ellison Science Award winner highlights locust research at her first international scientific conference.’

‘Technology in the skies fights desert locust.’

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