Drones scour a South African Forest for a specific type of plant

AI could one day help the endangered Encephalartos Woodie Plant thrive again. British scientists deployed drones with sensors to a South African rainforest in order to find a female plant partner for the critically endangered Encephalartos woodie species.

Encephalartos Woodii, also known as E. Woodii or Wood’s Cycad, is one of oldest seed-bearing cycads. This plant, which is similar to a palm, has existed on Earth for more than 300 million years. It is now in danger of extinction.

Only one specimen has survived, a male found in South Africa’s Ngoye Forest. It cannot reproduce on its own without a female.

Scientists from the University of Southampton in UK set out to find a female E. woodii specimen.

In the last two years, drones with sensors for reconnaissance have been sent to the Ngoye forest in search of female partners.

The first flights captured tens or thousands of images using a multispectral camera to detect features that are not visible to the naked eye. For example, they could tell if plants were alive or dead.

The technology is even more advanced, as the algorithm based on artificial intelligent can identify plants by their shapes and therefore species.

The project is led by Dr Laura Cinti. She is a research fellow and a researcher at the University of Southampton.

Maps and visualisations are created by using synthetic images and data generated with a generative modeling.

A female E. woodii is yet to be found. On the approximately 10,000 acres of forest, only 195 (approx. Only 195 acres (approx. Only 79 hectares have been explored. Cinti continues her research while simultaneously working on a parallel project aimed at the preservation of E. woodii.

The sex of the plant is altered by chemical or physiological manipulation. Vegetative plants are then produced from this material.

The researcher said that there have been reports about sex changes in other species of cycads due to sudden environmental change, such as temperature. “We are hopeful that we can induce sex changes in the E. Woodii,” he says.

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