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Seqwater deploys mini helicopters to help fight a war on weeds

Seqwater has welcomed a robotic addition to its land management strategy, deploying mini remote-controlled helicopters to take out invasive weeds. 

The Yamaha RMax – a three-and-a-half-metre-long mini helicopter – is being used to monitor and control weeds in the Wappa Dam, which is part of the Queensland utility's drinking water storage.

Seqwater Biosecurity Officer Jessica Doman said the helicopters had become invaluable in monitoring and managing aquatic weeds in catchment dams and waterways.

“Some of our catchments are prone to outbreaks of aquatic weeds, such as water hyacinth, salvinia and cabomba,” Doman said.

“Unless properly managed, weeds pose a significant threat to water quality and can deteriorate catchment health.”

Doman said the utility was using the heli-drones as part of an integrated weed management strategy. This includes a range of methods, such as mechanical removal, shoreline spraying and applying biological agents that feed on weed species.

The RMax is capable of carrying 16 L of herbicide per flight, for targeted weed spraying in hard-to-access areas.

“In some areas, it can be difficult to get a boat out on the water or spray weeds from the shoreline, so we’ve needed to explore other options like drones for treatment,” Doman said.

“Seqwater manages more than 73,500 ha of catchment land, so it’s important to look at new, innovative ways to improve our ability to treat both aquatic and terrestrial weeds across such a large area.”

This isn’t the first time Seqwater has found an innovative solution to a land management challenge. Last year, it brought in a team of four-legged landscapers to help maintain the area around its Landers Shute water treatment plant.