The ladder in your garage isn’t tall enough to reach the top of most trees, let alone the ‘ōhi‘a lehua, which can grow 100 feet high and is often found on inaccessible ridges. So to collect physical samples of Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death (ROD) damage for laboratory analysis, UH Hilo professor Ryan Perroy attached a special pruning saw and gripper claw to a drone.
Perroy won a $70,000 prize for the “Kūkūau,” as he has named the device, in the ‘Ōhi‘a Challenge to develop an innovation to help stop ROD. A story about how Perroy and the whole ROD team are using drones to help manage ROD is featured in the latest issue of Hana Hou, the in-flight magazine of Hawaiian Airlines.
Also quoted in the article is his friend and colleague Dr. J.B. Friday, of CTAHR’s Cooperative Extension Service. “Our colleagues have been developing some new technologies that will really help in detection and management of Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death,” he says. “Early detection is key, but it has sometimes been difficult and dangerous for field crews to sample symptomatic trees in remote locations.”
J.B. adds, “Use of unmanned aerial systems (drones) to get a sample from that brown tree on a ridgetop or in a gulch will allow crews to confirm if the tree is infected and take measures to limit the spread of the disease. With new technologies like these, we may be getting to the point where we can manage ROD on a landscape scale."
Read the full article.