Specialised drone set for wild dog war forefront

Zach RelphCountryman
Autonomous Technology director Nigel Brown and Jingemarra Station owner Mayne Jenour.
Camera IconAutonomous Technology director Nigel Brown and Jingemarra Station owner Mayne Jenour. Credit: Zach Relph

Drones fitted with cameras and bait-dropping features could soon be at the forefront of WA’s wild dog war, aiding pastoralists’ efforts to combat the ferocious pest.

Jingemarra Station owner Mayne Jenour is working with Autonomous Technology director Nigel Brown to trial a drone program at the Murchison pastoral lease in a bid to better understand the elusive canines.

A helicopter drone will be fitted with a thermal-imaging camera to record high-definition videos mapping terrain at the 110,426ha station, 70km north of Yalgoo, while noting wild dog locations.

It is also equipped with a “bait carousel”, which can hold up to 60 baits, to drop pre-poisoned meats at exact GPS points.

Mr Jenour engaged Mr Brown to help mitigate the pest influx at Jingemarra where he runs a flock of Damara-Dorper sheep.

Mr Brown said the trial was progressing, with test flights at the property scheduled for later this year and a trip to New South Wales’ University of New England to work on feature-recognition software.

“We are starting to work on the integration of our EO/IR (electro-optical and infrared) camera system,” he said.

“There has been a prototype helicopter, with all of our new components, test flown and hovered — everything is progressing well.”

Mr Jenour will speak at the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA’s State Pastoral Forum in Perth about the technology and its benefits next Thursday.

The pastoralist will give an insight into the helicopter drone and how its software could protect rangeland-based sheep flocks from wild dog attacks.

Mr Brown said he was confident the drone trial at Jingemarra would provide a blueprint for pastoralists to safeguard properties from the wild dog scourge.

“It will definitely be a good tool for pastoralists,” he said.

“Even with what we are doing now, with the bait carousel system and thermal imaging, is going to be a proven system.”

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Barry Davies will also be among speakers to address the PGA pastoral forum about addressing WA’s wild dog issue.

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