Laser-AI system may help eliminate pesky insects

Oct. 11, 2022
A laser-based system made from off-the-shelf equipment could help rid farms of invasive cockroaches.

Cockroaches are extremely resilient and can be difficult to get rid of with existing methods such as insecticides and sticky tape traps. But researchers may have found a way to effectively eliminate them with a laser-based technique.

A team at Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh, Scotland) developed a new laser system that combines laser light with artificial intelligence (AI) to detect and eliminate cockroaches. The system relies on machine vision and two cameras to map a cockroach’s exact position. With this information, the laser can target the insect and determine its movement (see video and figures).

In a series of experiments, the researchers were able to detect and eliminate cockroaches with extremely high accuracy as far away as 1.2 m. They found that on persistent, low power, the laser could change a cockroach’s behaviornamely its position or direction. Cockroaches were euthanized when the laser intensity and heat were increased.

The research and resulting laser system, published in Oriental Insectsbegan “as a potential way to destroy weeds,” says Ildar Rakhmatulin, a postdoctoral research associate at Heriot-Watt, "but then we came to the conclusion that it can also be used against pests. It’s selective, eco-friendly pest control."

The new system was built using off-the-shelf components that are affordable. "Machine learning technologies and the low cost of hardware technology allow us to make innovative products," Rakhmatulin says.

The new system is tunable, which means its use could expand to exterminating mosquitoes, protect bee populations from predatory hornets, or prevent parasites from destroying crops. The researchers are now exploring the possibility of scaling down the laser system for installation on farm vehicles or drones.

Rakhmatulin cautions, though, his team's laser-based system can only be used commercially, not in household settings. The laser itself is far too strong, he says, and could severely damage people’s eyes and vision. 

About the Author

Justine Murphy | Multimedia Director, Laser & Military

Justine Murphy is the multimedia director for the Laser & Military Group at Endeavor Business Media. In addition to Laser Focus World, the group includes Military & Aerospace Electronics and Vision Systems Design. She is a multiple award-winning writer and editor with more 20 years of experience in newspaper publishing as well as public relations, marketing, and communications. For nearly 10 years, she has covered all facets of the optics and photonics industry as an editor, writer, web news anchor, and podcast host for an internationally reaching magazine publishing company. Her work has earned accolades from the New England Press Association as well as the SIIA/Jesse H. Neal Awards. She received a B.A. from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

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