Rope Access & Drones for Rhododendron Control

Location – Glenborrodale Nature Reserve

Client – RSPB

 

Introduction

Highland Access Ltd, recently completed an environmental project in one of Lochaber’s temperate rainforest areas. Working for the  RSPB, the mission was to remove and control invasive rhododendrons and non-native trees. The project used an innovative blend of drone technology, rope access techniques, and eco-friendly practices, minimising chemical use and opting for manual removal methods where possible.

Problem

The Atlantic rainforest in Scotland is under ecological threat from invasive species like rhododendron. These plants, not native to Scotland, are outcompeting local flora and disrupting the natural ecosystem. The challenge was to effectively eliminate these invasive species without resorting to extensive use of chemicals or methods like chainsaw cutting.

Solution

Highland Access Ltd mobilised a team of IRATA, CAA, and PA1/6 certified technicians skilled in rope access rhododendron removal. The team used hand-pulling methods to remove the majority of invasive plants, ensuring minimal chemical use. Pruning saws were the only tools used, avoiding the use of chainsaws. Furthermore, drones played a vital role in the project, particularly on steep and open hillsides. we used the DJI M300 to help locate and identify rhododendron and non-native trees. This aerial assistance not only sped up the process but also ensured maximum coverage of the affected areas.

Process

The rope access team navigated various challenging terrains, including steep open hillsides, gorges, and roadside cuttings. The use of rope access techniques was essential in reaching these affected areas safely. Throughout the project, the team hand-pulled the invasive species, guided by the drone’s findings, to ensure a thorough clearing.

Importance

Removing rhododendron and non-native trees is critical for the health and sustainability of rainforests. These invasive species can hinder the growth of native plants and disrupt wildlife habitats. 

Conclusion

This project by Highland Access Ltd stands as a prime example of how rope access rhododendron removal can be effectively and sustainably carried out in sensitive ecological areas. By combining traditional techniques with modern technology, the team demonstrated that environmental conservation can be both efficient and environmentally conscious. This approach highlights the potential of rope access in challenging conservation projects, offering a model for future environmental efforts.

 

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