Treating and removing invasive vegetation, like phragmites, buckthorn, or tree of heaven, is often the first goal of many in restoration or development projects. But with so many invasive control spray options, how do you decide which direction to take when it comes to managing invasive plants?
Invasive vegetation control (IVC) can be achieved through various methods, like mowing, prescribed burning, and herbicide application. Within the herbicide application subset, the tried-and-true spraying methods—such as a bakpack, UTV, and helicopter spraying—are still common, but there’s a new, safer, and more cost-effective method on the rise: Drones.
Drones are a great way to spray herbicides with minimal manpower and may fill a niche the other methods cannot. Here are a few pros and cons of backpack, UTV, helicopter, and drone spraying methods:
- Backpack spraying is the most precise form of IVC spraying but is the slowest. Crews have to gear up in PPE to stay safe from back spray, and spraying large swaths of land by hand can be time-consuming and costly.
- UTV sprayers use large tanks with engine pumps and a spray hose. While they are more time-efficient than backpack spraying, UTV sprayers use hundreds of gallons of water in their herbicide mix per acre—a costly amount of water depending on the size of the spray area.
- Helicopter spraying can cover more area than backpack or UTV spraying, but requires a subcontractor to operate, which means an additional expense.
- Drones can cover up to 15 acres of land per hour while applying 2 gallons of water and herbicide mix per acre. They can be operated either manually or autonomously and can fly within a few inches of the target. This allows for high accuracy along with great productivity. Because drones are remote-controlled, exposure to the herbicide is much more limited. While these machines are great for large pieces of land, smaller jobs may not benefit from this technology.