Desert Locust Tracking

Background

It is critical to Aerial surveys with helicopters and airplanes are extremely expensive (roughly $2,000/hour) and require professional pilots. Ground surveillance is made impractical where locusts move large distances (>100km) or move over mountains and hills or across very difficult terrain. 

Additionally,  when swarms are spotted (ground or air) the observer cannot know if that swarm was the same one observed on previous days. 

PlantVillage sought to address these two constraints (cost/difficulty of surveillance) and swarm identity by testing a model of radio-tracking swarms via PlantVillage scouts 

 

 

 

 

 

 




Technology

We used radio tags which have been used for decades for tracking models. These tages are no so small and light they can be attacged to insects 

 

 

These are VHF ( Very High Frequency) tags which we bought from ATS. Each tag costs $260.  The tag was attached to the locust with a super glue and piece of gauze. The tag was place carefully onto the thorax of the locust without interfering with the wings or other parts of the locust.

The receiver used for this research was also purchase from ATS.  R4500SD, the model of the receiver, can operate in aerial and stationary mode. The receiver is capable of scanning multiple frequencies for multiple tags in the field. The receiver is also capable of automatically logging data for storage when in the field. All the feature mentioned above were instrumental to the success of this research. The receiver saves it’s GPS coordinate every time it gets signal from an activated tag. The GPS coordinates saved in the receiver is used to generate a trajectory of the locust movement. From the locust trajectory we can get other information about the speed, and directions of the locust while in flight