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AgNav - 160-201

Description: The goal of this project is to advance aerial herbicide applications by performing a series of operational field experiments to test and validate these new technologies. The technologies will be assessed under operational conditions in a forestry setting typical of northern Ontario. The Gordon Cosens Forest, managed by Tembec Inc., is being used as a case study for this project.

This project evaluates the combined use of AG-NAV, DGIS and GPS to automate the accurate distribution of herbicide spray. GPS/GIS technologies will allow definition of irregular shaped spray blocks containing only that area actually requiring herbicide treatment, thus minimizing the total area requiring treatment as compared to conventional techniques which require clearly visible block boundaries (normally roads and/or total cut boundaries) and regular rectangular shapes. The AG-NAV system provides real-time DGPS positioning of the aircraft and on-board monitoring which greatly enhances uniformity in track spacing and minimizes the potential for double swathing, thereby allowing further reduction in total herbicide applied and potentially leading to a general reduction in herbicide use rates. Further, use of the AG-NAV system in combination with GPS/GIS and automatic booms on/off technology will facilitate pilot identification and visualization of exclusion and buffer zones and enhance environmental protection by minimizing potential for direct application of herbicide in these areas. By integrating this advanced equipment, team members hope to optimize efficacy, cost-effectiveness and environmental protection associated with the aerial herbicide spray programs.

The objectives for this project have been divided into two phases. The focus of year one research was to validate the ability of electronic guidance and control systems in terms of enhanced uniformity of deposit on-target and to determine the accuracy in automated control of booms on and off about spray blocks with irregular end boundaries.

Already, Tembec has taken this technology operationally! This summer GPS equipment was installed in all of Tembec’s aircraft. The results from this project are promising and already many benefits have been recognized. From a company perspective, this technology provides project control. For example, forest managers are able to see exactly where and when the herbicide has been released. It also helps pilots in carrying out application duties. Already their navigational equipment is far superior than before and it produces increased efficiencies as far as route planning is concerned. It’s easier to plan from plot to plot, and tracking across plots has become effortless. As well, the shapefile that is produced helps pilots to better distinguish spray boundaries. Lastly, this tool has enabled companies to reduce the amount of herbicide that is being placed on the land base, by as much as 30% on some sites. This is significant with respect to FSC certification requirements (reduction in use of spray, protection of non-target tree species, wetlands, etc.), and cost reduction implications.

 

The Project Team: Dean Thompson, CFS, Robert Campbell, CFS, Arthur Robinson, CFS, Jeff Leach, Tembec, Paul Hodgins, General Airspray, Fred Ramirez, AGNAV Inc., Margo Shaw, ULERN

 

Tree Tips:

Tree Tip for Project 160-201, January 2004

 

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