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Drones Used To Track Emerald Ash Borer

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - In recent years the emerald ash borer has begun killing trees in Boulder County. Researchers there are now using drones to track the voracious bugs.

Researchers from Colorado College are working with two companies who specialize in drones on the project.

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The drone being used for the project has a special camera on it that can see details of a tree's health.

"There are two things we're looking -- species identification so we can separate the ash trees from the elm trees from the silver maple. And then we can also do health assessments so we can look at how healthy are the leaves, how healthy is the leaf structure and then be able to determine whether it's stressed from water, lack of nutrients or infestations," said Tim Hayne, CEO of Spectrabotics.

The camera on the drone has a sensor that measures reflective light and has the ability to take infrared images, the colors of which allow scientists to actually see nutrients like chlorophyl in the leaves.

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About 15 percent of the trees in Boulder County are ash and experts say all are at risk of dying without action. All of the county is on a quarantine in which no ash trees are allowed to leave the county.

The research is intended to help Colorado deal with infestations of the emerald ash borer, and scientists believe it will change the face of urban forestry. For now, they're keeping their focus on saving the trees.

"What we're trying to do is get out in front of the disease and study what it looks like from the air and in a timely manner go out, fly, identify where the tree is so then urban forest managers can get in front of the disease and treat trees they want to save," said Dan Staley, spokesman for the company Arbor Drone.

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