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Nationaler Gewinner


This probe improves long-term monitoring of forests by collecting and sharing real-time data on pests such as the bark beetle to minimize environmental damage.

  • Setup for the installation of a PILUM probe.

  • Short presentation video about the background and how PILUM works.

    Short presentation video about the background and how PILUM works.

  • Core problems, which were analyzed through field research in the Bavarian Forest.

  • Method and application of PILUM.

  • Technical details and main components.

  • Development process from automated sensor carriers to reduced staff probes.

Was es macht

This probe aims to improve the long-term monitoring of our forests by collecting and sharing real-time data on pests such as the bark beetle. In this way, environmental damage and collateral damage caused by the mistreatment of outbreaks can be minimized.

Deine Inspiration

Forests across the globe are threatened, although they are essential for biodiversity, climate, and human health. 80% of forest damage in Germany is caused by the bark beetle alone. Removing infested or potentially endangered trees is therefore enforced by law. In practice, however, these methods are inefficient and harmful. The current use of visual inspections and pheromone traps to detect outbreaks fails to determine them accurately in terms of location and time. This issue of inadequate information was the inspiration to use species-specific pheromones not for trap construction but for beetle monitoring itself.

So funktioniert es

Bark beetles live and feed in the inner bark layer of trees. Damage usually becomes visible when the affected tree dies due to the infestation while the beetle has already left. For precise in-time monitoring, PILUM´s internal sensors analyze pheromones and resin particles in the air that the bark beetle produces in its reproduction cycle. By detecting the wind direction, traces can be recorded from a greater distance in addition to monitoring a suspicious tree alone. One device is needed every 180 meters in highly vulnerable areas for permanent monitoring from spring to fall. To set PILUM up, the probes must be activated, extended, and attached to a tree with a belt. This process can be carried out by professionals as well as by amateurs. The requirements of citizen science operations were also considered. Collected data is immediately published and can be viewed in a public application, enabling more accurate and informed work in the forest.


Initial Ideas to directly contain or eliminate pests could only be considered as a treatment of symptoms, as it is far more relevant to transform vulnerable tree plantations into more diverse and sustainable forests. Therefore, the project focus changed to how environmental damage can be minimized in the short and medium term until this transformation can be achieved over the coming decades. Trees are often cut down not because of concrete pest outbreaks signs but because of speculation, while infested areas, on the other hand, are not detected. The resulting damage can be directly reduced by a simple technical innovation, in contrast to the fundamental misplanting of forests. Based on scientific knowledge regarding the ability to detect insects via pheromones, the framework for the Pilum probe was born. After the technical requirements were clarified, the casing and a digital application had to be designed. Mock-ups were used to test the use of drones, robots, and various support systems to evaluate how to get the required sensors to the right places most effectively and safely. With the realization that technical requirements for durability and cost reduction should be focused on the sensors alone, the product type was finally reduced to a simple and easy-to-use rod probe.

Warum es anders ist

In addition to the unique application of proven sensor technology, PILUM is notable for its ability to be used outside of specialized target groups and how it handles acquired data. Forests are connected Biotopes, but fragmented ownership, individual forestry practices, and isolated institutions complicate collaborative actions. Specific knowledge is usually passed on slowly and only in professional circles. PILUM was not developed as a specialized tool exclusively for experts. Due to the simple application, it can also be handled by amateurs and citizen science volunteers. Thanks to the digital application, information, and real-time data are communicated in an understandable way accessible to everyone. Collaborative action and awareness of the issue are thereby possible.

Pläne für die Zukunft

The urgency for action in the forestry and agriculture complex is becoming increasingly evident, which is why the European Union and national commissions have announced enormous funding for innovation within this sector. Positive feedback and the provided platform of design competitions can be the first big step of this project toward possible partners in the economy or science. With this support, a detailed test and further development phase would start, whereby the concept would be refined with the help of additional prototypes in terms of technology, design, and the implementation of the digital application.


PILUM won the IF Student Award 2023 and is nominated for the upcoming national Mia Seger Award in Germany. In addition, the project played an essential part in the nomination for the German Design Newcomer Award 2024, organized by the German Design Council.

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