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Meet ADAPT, A Revolution in Aquatic Herbicide

Feb 2019

In the near future, if you happen to see an unmanned watercraft making its way across your favorite lake or pond, it could be that you've encountered ADAPT, a revolution that promises to allow applicators of aquatic herbicides to increase their efficiency while decreasing exposure.

ADAPT is a nickname for an "autonomous aquatic application system" developed by researchers at NC State University with support from UPL. The name is derived from the first letters of the words Aquatic, Delivery, Autonomous, Precision, and Technology.

ADAPT is extremely versatile: While it’s applying herbicide, it can self-steer and at the same time map submersed vegetation. And it's scalable – it can be developed for use on a host of waterbodies ranging from small ponds to large lakes.

ADAPT is the brainchild of UPL's Justin Nawrocki, PhD, and NCSU's Rob Richardson, PhD, and Steve Hoyle.

Research and Development

The three researchers began developing ADAPT in 2014 after they identified an opportunity for an alternative to aerial spray systems that were just coming to market. They realized that safe, effective, and efficient use of these systems for applying aquatic herbicides would be challenged not only by legal and technical constraints, but also by the steep learning curve required to be able to pilot them safely. In their estimation, an autonomous watercraft was a better solution – so they developed one.

They first created a proof-of-concept model to provide a baseline of the features that applicators would want. After their model succeeded in meeting many of their original goals, NCSU filed an invention disclosure, which was followed by a provisional patent. It was then that UPL stepped in to work with NCSU to finalize ADAPT's development and bring it to market.

Over the course of the subsequent two-year design effort, NCSU researchers tested and demonstrated several hull-construction designs, propulsion systems, and spray-delivery methods to determine the final design. This was followed by successful farm-pond trials targeting duckweed and watermeal.

ADAPT is fully capable of manual or autonomous applications to deliver herbicide to target sites and has already demonstrated its ability to:

  • Provide a coordinated effort using two vessels concurrently
  • Use autonomous steering with minimal wind impact
  • Efficiently deliver a successful herbicide treatment
Future Research and Commercial Development

NCSU researchers continue to "ruggedize" ADAPT and are fabricating an easy-launch/loading system for it. Future research will develop and define a foliar application system along with a lake-wide survey and treatment program for submerged aquatic vegetation. At the same time, UPL is looking into commercial fabrication of multiple vessel sizes, and development of technology for vegetation mapping and treatment options.