The Remote Agricultural UAV Sensing project has won the 2014 CITRIS Sustainability Award at UC Davis. Led by Aerospace Engineering undergraduate students Robert Arlen, Guillermo Valdivia, David Kruger, with faculty mentor Dr. Susan Ustin, the group is designing and building a fixed-wing electric aircraft outfitted with lightweight terrestrial and environmental sensors. Their research project will test the feasibility and utility of micro-UAVs in sustainable agriculture. Remote on-board sensing equipment along with data collection software will monitor changes in soil-moisture content and plant stress over certain plots of land at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute’s (ASI) Russell Ranch Research Facility at UC Davis. Collecting data between irrigation schedules will provide useful information on how and where water propagates throughout a field. By measuring plant growth behavior with varied natural precipitation and soil moisture content, the team can evaluate the risk of plant stress, improve sustainable management practices and ultimately increase crop yields. The UAV is designed for plug-and-play compatibility with other sensing instruments for a variety of useful applications over different agricultural areas in the California Central Valley and other regions.
The team will present their results and flying UAV at the UC Davis Engineering Design Showcase held in June 2015.