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TC AgRA – Webinar 32 – Bringing Aerial Robots Closer to Crops Sensing, Sampling, and Safety

Dr. Carrick Detweiler is an Assistant Professor in the Computer Science and Engineering department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He co-directs and co-founded the Nebraska Intelligent MoBile Unmanned Systems (NIMBUS) Lab at UNL, which focuses on developing software and systems for small aerial robots and sensor systems. Carrick obtained his B.A. in 2004 from Middlebury College and his Ph.D. in 2010 from MIT CSAIL. He is a Faculty Fellow at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at UNL and recently received the 2014 College of Engineering Henry Y. Kleinkauf Family Distinguished New Faculty Teaching Award. He is currently lead PI on NSF and USDA grants, including a National Robotics Initiative Grant. In addition to research activities, Carrick actively promotes the use of robotics in the arts through workshops and collaborations with the international dance companies Pilobolus and STREB.


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly being used for everything from crop surveying to pipeline monitoring. They are significantly cheaper than the traditional manned airplane or helicopter approaches to obtaining aerial imagery and sensor data. The next generation of UAVs, however, will do more than simply observe. In this talk, I will discuss the challenges of using aerial robots very close (within a meter) of row crops to obtain information about the crop height and structure while following the rows precisely. Flying extremely close allows the use of active sensors that require less calibration than those used when flying high, but poses a number of challenges. In particular, there is little time to react to errors and the UAV must have a high degree of autonomy. In addition to discussing system design and experimental results, I will discuss automated software analysis techniques we are developing to detect and correct system errors to reduce risk and increase safety. I will focus on our recent work on the UAV-based crop inspection system, but also discuss other applications we are pursuing, including using UAVs to recharge remotely deployed sensors and how we are using very low flying UAVs to collect water samples from remote and hard to access bodies of water.


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