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Scientists trial drones to protect coffee plants from devastating fungal disease


Researchers are trialling the use of drones to monitor coffee plant health in Thailand in a bid to prevent the spread of disease.

Around 95 million cups of are drunk a day in the UK alone, but the coffee plant is susceptible to a fungal disease known as coffee rust. This disease is devastating to the plant and can wipe out vast swathes of crops or even entire plantations.

If a coffee plantation is hit by disease it can destroy an entire family’s livelihood. In the lower-income regions where coffee is grown, farmers also tend not to use expensive fungicides that could prevent the disease. This is also because they want to grow coffee without using chemicals to secure organic certification.

Now, a team led by Dr. Oliver Windram from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial are hoping to be able to prevent the spread of coffee rust using drones, and have been testing this out in the coffee growing areas of Thailand.

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