Above From left, Will Nguyen, Matthew Giannarelli and Lachlan Thompson from Assumption College Kilmore are keen to get some real life field experience using the drone.
Technology is having an increasing impact on our lives. Some of this is welcome as it helps us to do more, save time and money and have fun.
The South West Goulburn Landcare Network (SWGLN) hatched the idea of acquiring a drone after a demonstration field day held in 2021.
SWGLN consists of six central Victorian Landcare groups in the upper catchment of the Goulburn River south of Seymour. One of our network groups, Sunday Creek Dry Creek Landcare Group, had been successful in securing funding for a drone project to spray blackberry along Sunday Creek. SWGLN organised the drone demonstration field day so members, local landowners, and natural resource management agency representatives could see this new technology in action.
The drone we have purchased will be used as one of the many tools at our disposal in our war on weeds. It is a dedicated spray drone with a 10-litre capacity that can spray up to eight hectares a day. This type of drone is very accurate as it uses GPS technology and meets Australia’s strict standards in spraying. The cost of the drone and associated equipment was $25,000 so it’s a significant investment.
The drone will improve landowner safety as they won’t need to scramble up steep slopes or through thick undergrowth to treat weeds. In areas where there may be large weed infestations the drone will be able to access the entire growth area which would otherwise be totally inaccessible for land-based equipment.
Real-life field experience for young drone pilots
According to Paul Fleming, a long-time member of Glenaroua Landcare Group the drone will make weed control safer and more effective.
“The drone is also a way of getting more young people involved in Landcare. As in many rural areas we are faced with an ageing population. We are on the northern edge of Melbourne and being peri-urban this presents a great opportunity with young couples and families moving out of suburbia into a rural or semi-rural area.”
SWGLN has established a collaborative partnership with local schools to provide real life field experience in the use of drone technology. Assumption College Kilmore runs a Vocational Education and Training in Schools (VETiS) course for students from Assumption College and surrounding secondary colleges, who are studying the Certificate III in Aviation (Remote Pilot) in their senior secondary school years. This course provides students with the education and legal licensing requirements to become drone operators.
SWGLN, Assumption College Kilmore (ACK) and an agricultural drone company, Field Master Systems, will work together to provide students with enhanced drone operating skills.
Sam Hubbard from ACK said he was really excited that students would be able to gain hands-on experience of using an agricultural drone out in the field in a real work situation. Students who have begun working with the drone were impressed by its capabilities and how advanced the technology is.
In order to make full use of the drone SWGLN members will need training to obtain their remote pilot licence, a requirement of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. Members who achieve their licence will then provide a number of days on a voluntary basis to assist students and members of other Landcare groups and networks in our region.
As well as helping to educate students about technology and Landcare the SWGLN drone will also be used to promote the use of technology in other Landcare networks and in the rural sector more broadly.
SWGLN acknowledges Australian drone agents C.R. Kennedy who donated the drone, and Field Master Systems, a company of pilots and aeronautical engineers specialising in weed spraying by drone who donated their time to mentor Landcare members in achieving their remote pilot licence.
Henry Marszalek is treasurer of SWGLN. For more information email Sonia.Sharkey@mitchellshire.vic.gov.au