Pakistan announces manufacturing of drones to fight off impending locust crisis. Locusts are a bad omen for the agrarian economy, because they have destructive effects on the ripe crops, which then causes a food shortage in the mostly low-income country.
The locust swarms have hit Pakistan and have invaded agricultural fields around the nation, diminishing its crop yield and fueling the demise of an already weakened economy during the coronavirus pandemic.
Fighting off a locust crisis: How can drones help?
Three definitions of drone, as noun, are common in dictionaries. The most popular definition says that it is an aircraft that does not have a pilot but is controlled by someone on the ground, known especially for dropping bombs or for surveillance mostly used by the US armed forces. Drones are also used for delivery purpose, for hobby, as a camera fitted one for photography and now even for spraying chemicals on crops and surveillance of crops and pests etc.
This innovation is also useful in farming; an agricultural drone is used to help optimize agriculture operations, increase crop production and monitor crop growth. Sensors and digital imaging capabilities on such drone can give farmers a richer picture of their fields and hence, these views can assist in assessing crop growth and production.
Pakistani manufactured drones fight off locust swarms
Pakistan on Tuesday said it has developed drones to fight swarms of locusts that have invaded agriculture fields across the country, risking food security.
In a statement, the National Radio Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC), a state-run telecommunication manufacturing company, said the indigenously made drones would be used to spray insecticides and pesticides on fields in the country.
The development came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan handed over the first tranche of locally produced ventilators — also manufactured by the NRTC — to the country’s disaster management authorities as part of battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
In Pakistan, hopper bands of the Schistocerca gregaria — commonly known as the desert locust — have already devoured large quantities of crops in over 60 districts in all four provinces in the country.
The locusts are believed to have entered into the southwestern Balochistan province from neighboring Iran.
These insects, mainly originating from deserts, eat anything from bark to seeds and flowers while traveling up to a speed of 93.2 miles a day.
The region saw the first wave of the locust invasion in May last year since 1993.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Pakistan’s 38% of agriculture fields are breeding grounds for the insects.
China to help Pakistan in locust crisis: Offers to manufacture drones
A leading Chinese company has expressed willingness to set up an industrial unit in Pakistan to manufacture drones that can be used to protect crops and control locust.
“From factory construction, production, assembly, after-sales to personnel training, we can provide a full set of technical support to help Pakistan set up a drone manufacturing industry to quickly respond to various types of disasters,” Du Jixiang, Chief Engineer, Beijing Andun Equipment Co. Ltd told Economic Daily-China Economic Net.
He said that China and Pakistan have very good relations and carried out extensive cooperation in the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework.
“In the face of this locust disaster, we hope to work with Pakistan. And relevant enterprises are connected to provide a full set of technical support from factory construction, production, assembly and after-sales to personnel training,” Du added.
Emphasizing importance of cooperation in drone production line, Du Jixiang said that drones have very important and extensive uses in plant protection and in responding to various disasters and emergencies.
“We will not only support our iron brother in locust eradication, but also to help it build its own rapid disaster response capabilities, so that when it encounters various emergencies, it can produce, assemble and respond quickly,” he added.
NRTC: Drones will be available in markets across the country
The NRTC said that ‘Made in Pakistan’ drones will be available in markets across the country at a very low cost for farmers.
Prime Minister Imran Khan was also briefed by NRTC about the drones to control locust swarms.
On Monday, Imran Khan inaugurated the facility of country’s first-ever indigenously made ventilators at NRTC in Haripur.
The prime minister opened the project of local manufacturing of portable ventilators named ‘SafeVent SP100’, having the FDA/CE approval as economical and reliable ventilator in terms of usage and safety.
Terming the occasion as ‘landmark achievement’, he said abundant talent in the country could help gain self-reliance in technological innovation and vowed the government’s strong support to such initiatives.
The premier commended the initiative of NRTC team and the Ministry of Science and Technology for successfully producing locally-made ventilators.
However, the experts recommend that before drones can be operationally used in locust work, a number of issues need to be addressed and resolved.
This may involve a substantial amount of research and field testing. For example, a fixed-wing drone that searches for green vegetation should have a range of at least 100 km (ideally, or more) and be solar powered.
GVS News Desk with additional input from Anadolu and other sources