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Drones with high-tech sensors track disease in Italy’s olive trees

A new high-tech strategy will help monitor crops for infection with Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterium that has devastated the olive industry in southern Italy

Environment 15 April 2022

New Scientist Default Image

A drone’s view of an olive plantation

Distretto Tecnologico Aerospaziale

Drones equipped with hyperspectral and thermal sensors will be deployed in Italy to spot trees infected with Xylella fastidiosa, the deadly bacterium that has been devastating the country’s olive crops for almost a decade.

The sensors will be able to detect almost indiscernible signs of early infection, such as very slight changes in colour to the leaves, allowing farmers to cull affected trees and prevent outbreaks. More than 300,000 trees will be examined using the new drone technology in the next few months. …