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Project description

Drones can kill poisonous caterpillars

Stay clear of those dangerous caterpillars. They walk in a long line across the floor of a pine forest. They would be easy prey for predators if they weren’t poisonous – they are covered with hairs that have a toxin. They spell bad news for the Mediterranean’s pine trees and for humans since their hairs can cause severe skin irritations. Their poisonous hairs are also devastating for dogs who put their noses near them. The EU-funded FitoStinger project has found a way to inject the pesticide directly into the nest without affecting the surrounding area. It uses automated drones equipped with artificial vision and a specially-designed and patented lance. This method is more effective and environmentally friendlier.


At FitoStinger S.L. we have combined the recent advances in artificial intelligence and drone technology to create an innovative solution for the pest control industry, specifically targeting the problem of Pine Processionary Caterpillars (PPC), which is an increasingly common and hazardous pest found in pine trees across the Mediterranean arch, with global warming increasing its reach. In trees PCC causes severe defoliation waekening the tree making it more susceptible to drought, fungus, forest fires etc. For people it is especially harmful due to the caterpillars urticating’s hairs which disperse through the air causing serious skin injuries, even triggering anaphylaxis in sensitive people. They can also cause various injuries to animals, by causing their tongue, oesophagus and stomach swell, which can lead to death. The hairs cause necrosis on the animal’s tongue and some lose almost all their tongue.
FitoStinger’s innovative method uses automated drones equipped with artificial vision and a specially designed and patented lance that allows the pesticide to be injected directly into the nest without affecting the surrounding area. Our method is fast, effective and environmentally friendly, unlike current state-of-the-art methods that spray the entire tree with pesticides, which is harmful to other species living in the tree as well as the humans in the area.

We are currently at TRL 7 with a semiautomated system. Once the project is completed the drone will be fully automated which will allow us to perform the treatment in half the time and increase the treatable area, potentially deploying a small fleet of drones for large parks and forested areas.

We estimate a TAM of 4,287M trees and SAM of around 1,205M infected trees. 5 years after commercialization a cum. EBITDA over €7M, an IRR of 40%, NPV of €3.5M and WACC of 10%, with 21 new employees. We also plan to expand our technology to target other pests such as Oak Processionary Caterpillars and Asian Hornets.

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Net EU contribution
€ 50 000,00

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The organization defined itself as SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) at the time the Grant Agreement was signed.

Este Cataluña Barcelona
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
Total cost
€ 71 429,00