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County Deploys Aerial Drone

Rocky View County has begun using a new unmanned aerial drone in an ongoing fight against a persistent and dangerous enemy. But the County isn’t battling spies or drug lords—it’s fighting noxious weeds.

To urban dwellers, weeds are a blemish on carefully-manicured landscapes, but in rural Alberta they can cause millions of dollars in damage to crops and livestock, and pose a serious risk to native wildlife and plant species.

Provincial law requires all landowners to control or destroy dozens of different weed species that pose an economic or environmental threat. Rocky View County conducts weed inspection and enforcement programs on private lands, and mounts an aggressive program to control and eliminate weeds on public land as part of this provincial directive. This year, the County stepped up those efforts with the deployment of an aerial drone.

“We can face coulees, steep river banks, dangerous outcroppings, and other hazards that make land inaccessible to weed inspectors. These hard-to-reach areas are often where noxious weeds start to take control, so a drone with real-time video and photos is proving invaluable in helping us locate and identify the threat,” says County Agricultural Fieldman, Jeff Fleischer.

Fleischer says that early identification of weed problems through the use of a drone can save the County and private landowners a great deal of money and effort.

“As the old saying goes, nip it in the bud. If we can identify a weed infestation early, it can be very straightforward and cost effective to control or eliminate the problem,” Fleischer says.

Rocky View County Deputy Reeve and Agricultural Service Board Chairman Earl Solberg agrees. “Noxious weeds infest pastures and crops, alter natural habitats, compete with native plants, and impact animal, insect, and bird species. While there is a cost to control them, it’s nothing compared to the cost of the damage they can do if left unchecked.”

County staff are trained on the safe operation of the drone, which will be used only for weed inspection purposes. It will fly throughout the growing season, and the County will conduct a full evaluation of this first season’s operation later in the year.

“So far, response from the public has been very positive,” Fleischer says. “Most rural residents understand the importance of fighting noxious weeds, and they’re excited to see the County bringing this technology into the battle.”

Posted in: Agriculture Weeds & Pests Media Releases

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