Laws against drones in Kenya have relaxed, and now the country wants to use them to fight off locusts. The United Nations is to test drones equipped with mapping sensors and atomizers to spray pesticides in Kenya which is battling an invasion of desert locusts that are ravaging crops and exacerbating a hunger crisis.
Hundreds of millions of the insects have swept across East Africa in what the U.N. has called the worst outbreak in a quarter of a century, with Uganda, Eritrea and Djibouti also affected. A few Kenyans have already admitted the country’s incapacity to dispose of the locusts.
The chairman of the Entomological Society of Kenya, Dr. Muo Kasina told Daily Nation that “the government needs to get help from countries with advanced drone technology like the United States, Israel, and Denmark to deal with the locust menace before it gets out of hand.”
Kenya will be using drones equipped with cameras and mapping sensors to monitor the movement of swarms and the damage they inflict. Later on, drones equipped with atomizers will spray pesticides on crops known to have Locust infestations.
“Nobody’s ever done this with desert locusts before. So we have no proven methodology for using drones for spraying on locusts…There are already small atomizer sprayers made for drones. But with locusts, we just don’t know how high and how fast to fly.” says Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The swarms have already eaten tens of thousands of hectares of crops, such as maize, sorghum, and teff, and ravaged pasture for livestock. This can result in food shortages in a region where up to 25 million people are already struggling from three consecutive years of droughts and floods.