Drones among new tools for researchers fighting Rapid Ohia Death

Drones among new tools for researchers fighting Rapid Ohia Death
(Image: Hawaii News Now/file)

HILO, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - State wildlife officials say they've begun using advanced types of technology – including drones and three-dimensional mapping – to help battle against Rapid Ohia Death.

University of Hawaii researchers, in tandem with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, say the technology is helping scientists spot the fungal disease quicker – making it easier to prevent it from spreading further.

"We also started to be collecting data, not only to see changes over areas that are already effected with Rapid Ohia Death, but when there is suspected cases of new cases," said Dr. Ryan Perroy, an associate professor at U.H. Hilo.

The use of drones, and the availability of the portable labs that help facilitate field testing, is making it easier to isolate infected areas.

"The state … will call us to come out and fly the area and see if we can determine from the imagery just the individual isolated tree or if there is more trees in the surrounding area," said Dr. Perroy.

Researchers, including a flight team that's re-mapping ohia forest, are banding together to combat the threat.

"People from different organizations are brining different expertise to the table," said Greg Asner, of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory. "They're saying, 'here is what I can offer, here is a piece.'"

Researchers are currently using a twin-engine aircraft to help map ohia forests on Hawaii Island, where the DLNR says 75,000 acres show signs of the fungal disease.

"We can go immediately out and do more samples so we can get a better sense of you know how wide spread this possible infestation is," said Dustin Swan of the Big Island Invasive Species Committee.

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.