Inside Unmanned Systems

APR-MAY 2017

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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38 unmanned systems inside   April/May 2017 LAND AGRICULTURE "FOR PRODUCERS, it's going to accelerate the rate at which we can improve the genetic material." Stephen Long, project director and professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology, University of Illinois The robot uses miniature tank treads to help it traverse both dry and muddy fields. A boom arm lifts sensors and the GPS antenna above the plant canopy when necessary. The project is funded with a $3.1 million grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)'s Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERR A) program, an effort w ithin the U.S. Department of Energy. Scientists at the University of Illinois' Carle R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biolog y are developing the TERR A-Mobile Energy-Crop Phenotyping Platform (MEPP) robot in partnership with researchers from Cornell University and Signetron, an engineering services firm based in Berkeley, California. The robot that Chowdhar y and his col- leagues are working on travels using con- tinuous tracks, or miniature tank treads, which help it traverse both dry and muddy f ields. "It only moves 5 centimeters per sec- ond," Chowdhar y said, which amounts to about 9.8 feet per minute. "It's designed to be slow, or else the sensors would not get any useful data." The TERRA-MEPP robot currently relies on a scooter battery and can operate for roughly an hour. The researchers have a version in the works that uses a lithium-ion battery to extend that to more than 2.5 hours. Sensors The robot uses hyperspectral, thermal, and high-definition cameras, along with active radiation sensors such as LiDAR and time-of- f light cameras that emit light pulses to scan objects. With these sensors, the rover gathers information on plant traits such as stem diam- eter, stalk height and leaf area and monitors environmental conditions such as soil tem- perature and moisture. A boom arm helps the

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