Queensland: Fire ants have become a menace in Queensland, Australia. They affect crops, native species and human health. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has started using aerial remote sensing to ward off these tiny monsters.
Fire ants were first spotted in Queensland in 2001. According to an estimate, the fire ant menace is spread over an area of 342,000 ha. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry started a project to eradicate fire ants in May 2012. The department has been using two helicopters. These helicopters have cameras mounted on them. They fly at a height of 150 metres. Each helicopter can capture 750 ha of imagery per day. The images are captured in three separate frequency ranges: visible, near infrared and thermal. The images are then sent to the University of Sydney where experts do image analysis. In suitable weather conditions (maximum 100 days a year) fire ant nests are 10C hotter than the surrounding ground. Once the nests are identified the department eradicates the ants from that area. The estimated cost for remote sensing surveillance is just over A$72 ($65.19) per hectare. This will save over A$24 million ($21.73 million) per year compared to ground based surveillance.