The robots are coming – and they want our rainforests.

CSIRO has launched two “Project ResQu” drones programmed to locate weeds faster and more reliably than ever.

The scientists are conducting a trail of the new biosecurity-bots to fight back against the dreaded ‘purple plague’; Miconia calvescens.

The unmanned helicopters find weeds using sophisticated imaging technology, and can access dense rainforests where weeds are carried in by animals or blown in from gardens or farms.

“Miconia is among the worst of a number of weeds that pose a significant threat to Australia’s precious rainforest remnants,” said CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship Science Director, Dr Gary Fitt.

“Unless detected and eradicated early, they can cause irreversible damage to our native plant and animal populations.

“In the biosecurity space effective surveillance is critical – we need to be able to detect incursions quickly and accurately. Technologies like the autonomous helicopter or other autonomous platforms provide us with another tool in the fight against these biological invasions.”

In one trial at El Arish near Cairns, the sky-borne cyborgs found not only Miconia but several other weed species as well.

“They performed better than expected, finding Miconia plants in dense rainforest that hadn’t been spotted before,” robotics researcher Dr Torsten Merz said.

“Once the invasive plant is identified, they are removed from the rainforest.”

More details in the following video.