Boeing’s [BA] Insitu Pacific, the Australian Insitu subsidiary, yesterday said it would use its ScanEagle unmanned aircraft system (UAS) on behalf of the Queensland Government for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) for the first Siam weed detection trials using UAS.

Siam weed, native to Central America, is a declared pest plant that threatens biodiversity in Australia.

The Scan eagle is widely used by the U.S. Marines and Navy, and the Navy is providing the Coast Guard with a Scan Eagle for a two phase test collecting data in contemplating future use of UAS platforms from its National Security Cutters (Defense Daily, Dec. 1 2011).

 “These UAS trials are an important step in proving the substantial safety and operational benefits that come from employing UAS in commercial applications,” said Insitu Pacific managing director, Andrew Duggan.

The trials in Far North Queensland are planned for four days in late June. The ScanEagle UAS will survey the size and density of the Siam weed population.

Insitu Pacific will report the trial’s findings back to DAFF for further analysis. This is hoped to give DAFF the information it needs to eliminate this pest weed before it spreads.

“We are excited to partner with the Queensland Government in this activity,” said Duggan. “Our previous work in monitoring marine mammals off the coasts of Western Australia and Queensland was a huge success in terms of demonstrating the ability for UAS to operate safely in civilian airspace.”

Using unmanned aircraft systems in this type of scenario provides a cost-effective alternative and decreases potential risks associated with sending out manned helicopter crews on long-duration, low-altitude surveillance missions where there is little margin for error.

The ScanEagle UAS is controlled remotely from a ground control station, so the risk profile is significantly reduced compared to manned operations.

Insitu Pacific, located in Queensland, Australia, has provided UAS services to defense, civil and commercial interests in the Asia-Pacific region since June 2009.