State-of-the-Art Drone to Aid Leading Research into Hayfever and Crop Disease

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A state-of-the-art, unique drone will help researchers at the University of Worcester undertake cutting edge research in aerobiology.

The specially designed and commissioned piece of equipment, which has a wing-span of 6ft and weighs just 3.5kg is capable of repeatedly taking the exact same flight path, collecting images or samples for leading research into hayfever, crop disease, meteorological changes, and a multitude of other purposes.

The concept came from Dr Carsten Skjoth, a Senior Lecturer and Researcher with the University’s National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit (NPARU), and was built by a leading engineering firm in Denmark, Danish Aviation Systems.

“This piece of equipment will allow us to expand our research capabilities into airborne observations of bioaerosols, remote sensing and meteorological observations,” said Dr Skjoth. “It will enable us to get exact detail images and unique samples that will really develop the work that we do.”

The drone has been carefully designed so that it is adaptable for different uses and can be flown anywhere in the world, manually or fully automatic. Dr Skjoth has undergone specific flying lessons to use the equipment and is currently awaiting licence from the Civil Aviation Authority.

It was developed through a grant from the Danish Research Council. Dr Skjoth has now secured a €100.000 Marie Curie Career Integration Grant (CIG) to further develop the drone and carry out novel research by using the drone.

Professor Roy Kennedy, Director of the NPARU, said: “Marie Curie Grants are prestigious and very competitive and designed to undertake cutting edge research at leading institutes in Europe.

“This underlines the strategy at the University on dedicated research centres and highlights NPARU as a recognised leader within aerobiology.”

Internationally, the project is also part of two large scientific collaboration projects on developing new detection methods as well as developing mathematical models that describe movements of biological material in the air. The award will therefore both enhance basic understanding of bioaerosols and improve existing forecasting of pollen and fungal spores: a major cause to hay fever in the UK.