Drones keeping an eye on the fly

Published on
March 6, 2017

A consortium of European researchers are joining forces to develop a new and more efficient method for monitoring the fruit fly Drosophila suzukii.


The fruit fly Drosophila suzukii – also known as Spotted Wing Drosophila – and its larvae has become a serious pest in many soft-skinned crops since its spread to Spain and Italy in 2008 affecting many commercial fruits such as cherries, berries and grapes. Current monitoring systems are costly, time-consuming and labour-intensive. In addition, they are conducted at a low spatial resolution and prone to errors.


Scientists from three different research institutions in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have therefore joined forces to develop an efficient and accurate monitoring system to assist in the control of Drosophila suzukii in soft fruit crops. The new research project, entitled Automated Airborne Pest Monitoring (AAPM) of Drosophila suzukii in Crops and Natural Habitats, is a collaboration between Johannes Fahrentrapp from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland, David R. Green of UCEMM at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and Lammert Kooistra of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.


Researchers from the Laboratory of Geo-information Information Science and Remote Sensing of Wageningen University will develop a drone based system for making high-resolution photographs of sticky card traps in orchards. Once the flies get their feet stuck in the glue they will be photographed using high resolution cameras mounted on autonomous drones that will ”hop” from trap to trap collecting the imagery. Software trained to analyze the images captured will be used to identify and count the number of target insects. Thereafter, the collected data will be transferred to a decision support system to provide valuable information for growers in a meaningful and accessible format.