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Eliminating Fire Ants

New technology is helping Queensland authorities to combat fire ants.

The aggressive pest was first detected in the state in 2001. It threatens crops, native animals and people and has inspired a concerted response from pest control authorities.

While the geographic spread of the ants has increased since 2001, authorities have been encouraged by new technology known as remote sensing surveillance (RSS).

RSS uses aerial cameras that can quickly scan a vast area for fire ants in a fraction of the time ground based surveillance would take.

The cameras are attached to helicopters that fly over the area at 150 metres above the ground. The cameras take standard, thermal and near infrared images to identify the presence of fire ant nests. The nests have a particular shape and are usually around 10 degrees Celsius warmer than the ground around them.

The imagery is processed by an algorithm and then fed to analysts to take informed action.

This new strategy of remote sensing means that a much larger area can be scanned while costing less than ground based surveillance.