Darwin, Australia 3 October 2023 The Northern Hub, funded by the Commonwealth Government’s Innovation Fund, announces a significant milestone in the “Drones for Remote Regions” project. This milestone marks the successful test flight and sampling of a custom-built rig deployed from a drone, aimed at transforming water sampling and chemical analysis for farms in the Northern Territory. Farmers in the Northern Territory face unique challenges, including the tyranny of distance and the need to monitor water quality in a timely and safe manner. Traditional methods involve travelling vast distances to physically collect water samples from waterways, a process that not only consumes valuable time and fuel but also poses serious safety risks due to the presence of saltwater crocodiles in these areas. Additionally, sending collected samples to specialised laboratories for analysis can result in a lengthy wait of approximately three to four weeks for results. In response to these challenges, the “Drones for Remote Regions” project, a collaboration between SRA and NT Farmers, has developed a custom-built rig deployed from a drone. This rig collects water samples and measures nitrite and nitrate levels in near real-time. “Farmers in the Northern Territory face challenges in monitoring water quality safely and efficiently. The ‘Drones for Remote Regions’ project offers a solution that not only saves time but also enhances safety for our farmers,” says Paul Burke, Northern Hub spokesperson. This innovative drone-based solution demonstrates the accurate analysis of chemical byproducts arising from agricultural production fertiliser application. Key objectives include in-situ analysis, reduction of work health and safety risks, and the integration of a chemical analysis module with the ability to sample accurately from waterways. Moreover, it enables the capture, analysis, and transmission of chemical analysis results in near real-time to farmers. “This project represents a significant step towards more efficient chemical analysis in farming. We’re excited about the possibilities this technology opens for farmers, enabling them to make informed decisions quickly and safely,” says Shaun Luckhurst, SRA Service Delivery Manager. This pioneering technology has the potential to revolutionise not only water quality monitoring but also the broader farming sector in the North. Further development could include drone-based chemical analysis tests for other forms of nitrogen, phosphates, physical parameters such as pH, salinity and turbidity, as well as farm pesticides and herbicides entering ecosystems. It also promises automation of water quality compliance reporting obligations and application to cattle water troughs for measuring key water quality parameters. “The ‘Drones for Remote Regions’ project offers a glimpse into a future where farming is not only more efficient but also safer. Quick access to water quality data will be a game-changer for cotton farmers in the Northern Territory,” says Bruce Connolly, Farm Manager at Tipperary Station. As the ‘Drones for Remote Regions’ project continues to make strides in the agricultural industry, the Northern Hub remains committed to supporting innovative solutions that enhance drought resilience for farmers and communities in the Northern Territory. For media inquiries and additional videos and photos, please contact: Veronica Toral-Granda, 0456772853 – veronica@northernhub.au