How Drones are helping with research into biofuel.
Next month, a team of researchers will load one small aerial drone and two ground drones with sensors and release them on a field planted with hundreds of varieties of sorghum. Sorghum is a great candidate for the production of biofuels as it is hardier than corn.
This team’s objective is to use drones and automated sensors to measure as many physical characteristics of each individual plant as possible-everything from height and thickness to the angle the leaves are growing to photosynthetic activity.
In just one trip, the three drones, along with several stationary sensors, are expected to gather enough intel to construct a 3-D model of the field that will help researchers do what’s historically taken plant breeders ages to accomplish-pinpoint when a single plant in the field of sorghum varieties is thriving beyond expectation.
At least once every two weeks, the tiny chopper will make a 20-minute flight across a 10-acre plot while ground drones trove through the field, taking their own measurements and placing tiny sensors on plant stalks and leaves.
Working in tandem with the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and plant researchers at Clemson University, Bartlett’s team is one of six ARPA-E funded groups that are racing over the next two to four years to construct automated systems that can gather massive amounts of accurate phenotype data, analyze crop growth, and develop algorithms for selecting the best plants to reproduce.
A team at the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis will use research generated from these groups to build open-source phenotype data sets that scientists around the world can use in their own work.
Source is here at MIT Technology Review.