Mallee biomass research employs quadcopter

WA RESEARCHERS are employing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to get new insights into oil mallee trees, which could become the primary resource for the state’s growing biofuels industry.

Researchers with the Future Farm Industries Cooperative research Centre are employing the UAV to take photos of mallee trees at their trial site in Narrogin, as part of the new Woody Crop Industries program focusing on mallee trees as a source of biomass.

CSIRO’s Richard Bennett says the images produced from the UAV will enable researchers to estimate the biomass yield from a plot of trees as well as test variables such as soil and irrigation to maximise production.

“The traditional way of doing things is to measure each tree for its length, width and height, then cut that plot down, weight it, and from that determine the ratio between a tree’s measurements and its biomass yield. With that ratio, we can determine the biomass yield for any given plot of trees that we have taken measurements for,” Mr Bennett says.

“It’s very labour intensive, requiring about two days to measure 1500 trees.