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Cameras take eradication to the skies

THEIR bodies measure just a few millimetres long, but Queensland's best hope of discovering fire ants could be from more than 100m above.

The State Government will launch a new weapon to stamp out the fire-ant pest - a $1 million remote sensing camera with infra-red powers.

In a world first, the fight will take to the skies in July to search for lingering infestations using thermal imaging and aerial photography. The launch will mark a transition from large-scale treatment to more targeted eradication.

Testing began in 2009 and fire-ant eradication program deputy director Craig Jennings said the camera would be in use within months after favourable trial results.

``We know our treatment works, we know we can kill them, so the big challenge is to find them,'' he said.

Attached to a helicopter, the equipment can search 750ha of ground a day for fire-ant mounds from about 120m above. Thermal imaging would be used to identify areas where the ground temperature differed from its surrounds, which would then be cross referenced against photographs designed to show areas matching the shape of ant mounds.

Similar technology has been trialled in the US, but proved less effective due to the high density of infected areas there. US fire-ant expert Dr Bart Drees said unusually shaped fire-ant mounds and thick vegetation had proved problematic for remote sensing equipment.


-As laid out in the Sunday Mail

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