Saving the Desert with AI and Drones

A team of wildlife conservationists — with the help of Intel — are scouring the desert floor in Scottsdale, Arizona, to eliminate an environmental threat called buffelgrass.


  • April 20, 2023

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​In a 30,000-acre wilderness desert preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona, drones occasionally fly overhead to search for an invasive plant species that causes wildfires and chokes and kills nearby native plants.

The environmental threat is buffelgrass.

Employees and volunteers in the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy — with the help of Intel — are using drones and AI to scour the desert floor to find and eliminate the non-native grass. What would take conservancy volunteers years to document though painstaking field work, aerial drone surveys and AI processing can accomplish in hours.

Intel engineers developed an AI algorithm that quickly detects unique features of the plants, including their color, distribution, shape and density.