Though Pennsylvania startup AeroPest won’t be delivering its specialized wasp extermination drone tech to clients until later this year, the company is already beginning to adapt its patent-pending aerial spraying device to a number of non-lethal uses by other businesses as well.
Backed by Philadelphia’s Drexel University, AeroPest is initially marketing its Hummingbird precision aerial spraying invention to extermination companies – especially those that handle the uncomfortable and often dangerous work of eliminating wasp nests. Deployment of the articulated two-foot nozzle on a drone will permit enterprise clients to neutralize scores of the seriously stinging insects while avoiding use of ladders or rooftop climbing usually required to access to those elevated positions.
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AeroPest says there are other advantages to using its drone-equipped aerial spraying system against wasps than just removing the risk of injuries during falls in singularly hostile environments. The precision system enables pinpointed targeting of pesticides, thereby needing less of those agents to kill the insects, and minimizing exposure to surrounding areas.
The fast setup and deployment of UAVs in those operations, meanwhile, permits quicker mission completion at each job site, and the potential of operators serving more customers in a workday.
When he unveiled the invention at a Drexel University innovation contest back in 2019, AeroPest founder and CEO Harrison Hertzberg described the drone spraying tool as the fruit of his own very unpleasant firsthand insights into dealing with wasps.
“I was on the roof of my dad’s second story office building on a steep incline, with my aerosol can in hand, spraying a wasps’ nest with wasps all around me on a 100-degree day,” he told Drexel News. “So, I was like, ‘This is a problem, right? Is there a solution?’ And there wasn’t, so I decided to do it myself.”
The Hummingbird anti-wasp spraying system is conceived for mounting on DJI Inspire drones, and uses AeroPest’s custom 16 oz. aerosol cannisters. The product will be available in the third quarter of this year, but by that time Hertzberg plans on marketing it to a broader prospective customer base than pest extermination companies alone.
“Our technology, which can precisely apply any liquid at any height… is finding use cases in a variety of industries,” he says. “We have had inquiries for applications as diverse as lubricating industrial machinery to de-icing aircraft.”
Though the proprietary drone spraying system is AeroPest’s alone, previous uses of the craft to take down wasps nests by remote pilots have had considerable success.
Japan’s Duskin Co. pioneered use of drones in that task by outfitting a UAV with a vacuum attachment that rams holes in the nest, then sucks its inhabitants up as they begin to swarm. Between 10 and 20 people are killed every year in Japan during nest demolitions.
In China, meanwhile, a group aiding villagers near the city of Chongqing who’d been facing proliferating hornet populations took a decidedly heavier handed approach. The Blue Sky association outfitted a drone with a gasoline-spitting nozzle that – once fire was factored in – became a no-nonsense flamethrower that destroyed at least 11 hives (and seriously charred the trees they’d been in).