FABI, in collaboration with the ICFR and Ghent University, is working to develop remote sensing techniques to detect and monitor damage caused by insect pests and diseases, such as Gonipterus sp. 2 and Teratosphearia leaf blight in Eucalyptus plantations. Licensed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operators are required for the collection of UAV-based multispectral and high-resolution images for the development of these techniques.

Josias Letaoana, a TPCP field extension officer, was offered the opportunity to complete a Remote Pilot Licence (RPL) with the Drone Safety and Legal (DSL) training institution. During the training, Josias met with three collaborative colleagues from ICFR, who also enrolled in this drone course. The course was completed at DSL’s facilioty in Fourways, Johannesburg from 14-26 August. The course comprised two exams, a skills test and radio telephony and English proficiency assessments.

Adding additional pilots to the remote sensing team increases the capacity available for data collection and is invaluable for the development of drone-based methods for pest and disease detection research in forestry.