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Flourish Report Summary

Project ID: 644227
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Flourish (Aerial Data Collection and Analysis, and Automated Ground Intervention for Precision Farming)

Reporting period: 2015-03-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

To deal with a growing world population with the given amount of arable land, we must develop new methods of sustainable farming that increase yield while minimizing chemical inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. As an example, the United Nations (UN) forecasts that food production must double by 2050 to cope with population growth with a limited supply of new arable land and difficulties in sourcing skilled farm labor.
Precision farming techniques seek to resolve these challenges by monitoring essential indicators of crop health and targeting treatment only to plants or infested areas. Such monitoring is currently a time-consuming and expensive activity.
Therefore, the goal of the Flourish project is to fill the gap between the current and desired capabilities of agricultural robots by developing an adaptable robotic solution for precision farming. By combining the aerial survey capabilities of a small autonomous multi-copter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with a multi-purpose agricultural Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV). The system will be able to survey a field from the air, perform targeted intervention on the ground, and provide detailed information for decision support, all with minimal user intervention. The system can also be adapted to a wide range of farm management activities and different crops by choosing different sensors, status indicators, and ground treatment packages. The gathered information can be used alongside existing precision agriculture machinery, for example, by providing position maps for fertilizer application.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

To achieve the goals presented the above list, the Flourish project is split up into 10 work packages (WP) and the achievement on each WP until the period covered by the report is as
WP1: This work package targets the use-case specific challenges for the project and all tasks within this work package are completed. First, the use-case analyzed in detail to provide hardware and software requirements for all modules, the UGV, the UAV as well as the mission scenario. Second, the partners conducted an initial data acquisition at test farms close to UBN and ETHZ to allow and early start with real data.
WP2: In this work package, the software components such as UAV localization module of the UAV perception system were defined and developed. This data will allow mission planning before the unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) actually goes in the field, enabling UGV intervention at the optimal time and location for weed elimination or fertilizer application.
WP3: This work package concerns the development of the mission planning algorithms which define the path the UAV takes to optimally survey the field taking into consideration field coverage, scientifically defined areas of interest and battery constraints while detecting and avoiding any obstacles in its path. An informative path planning (IPP) framework for active classification has been developed and evaluated on the application of weed detection in simulated environments. Outdoor field tests and evaluation are progressing.
WP4: This work package addresses the field-related perception challenges of the UGV. The key task is to analyze the sensor data and interpret it as the basis for the navigation and field intervention actions by the UGV. The first focus here is to distinguish the crop from the weed and thus enable field intervention in WP6. The second objective is the environment modeling on the field, i.e., building a map that will support the navigation in WP5.
WP5: This work package considers the navigation system for the UGV, which is essential for autonomous operation. The key tasks we have to address are to localize the UGV in an environment model, to analyze the terrain and classify traversable and non-traversable areas around the UGV.
WP6: This work-package focuses on the implementation of the ground intervention to either mechanically destroy the weeds or precisely spray the required compounds to the plants or weeds. Task 6.1.
WP7: This work package coverts the field of cooperative UAV and UGV environment models to create consistent models for both, any robot as well as the human. The integrated fully functional database is available from ETHZ data server and coordination of UAV and UGV, and joint environmental model are to be started. The first prototype of user interface is available and take-off and landing task is in progress.
WP8: This work package concerns the integration and testing of the individual modules developed at the partners’ sites. This implies the organization of the integration and testing weeks and the smooth integration of the technologies developed in this project. Project-wide development repository setup, integration plan are completed and integration and test weeks, system integration, and evaluation are in progress.
WP9: This work package addresses “Innovation Related Activities” in the Flourish project as an own work package covering dissemination activities, exploitation plan, and management of knowledge. All tasks are ongoing until the end of the Flourish project.
WP10: This work package is related to project management by project coordinator, project vice-coordinator, and administrative project manager who supports the coordinators. Work package leaders report progress and status to the coordinator and the steering committee.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The key development and research actions performed within Flourish lead to the major building blocks that enable a combination of ground and aerial robots to work in agricultural fields, alongside and in collaboration with humans. The main impacts of the project can be folded into two: 1) impact to the Horizon 2020 work programme and Strategic Research Agenda and 2) impact on applications.
First, the Flourish project addresses the work programme as follow:
• Increasing Europe's market share in industrial robotics to one third of the market and maintain and strengthen Europe's market share of 50% in professional service robotics by 2020.
• Improving the competitiveness of Europe's manufacturing sector and addressing pressing technological challenges and the effect of an aging workforce.
• Increasing Industry-Academia cross-fertilization and tighter connection between industrial needs and academic research.
• Deploying robotics technologies in new application domains.
• Improving performance evaluation and certification of new robotic systems.
• Ensuring wide use of shared resources.
• Utilization of sensing and data processing on autonomous machines operating on the farm to gain more fine grained data about the land and crops.
• Developing systems and strategies that reduce the use of antibiotics and *icides (e.g., herbicide) boosting ecologically sound farming.
• Interconnecting Multiple autonomous systems to improve quality and efficiency.
• Applying path strategies to reduce soil compaction.

Second, the developed systems have a large number of possible to the agriculture related applications in widely-varying areas, such as automated inspection, surveillance, high resolution 2D and 3D mapping of urban environments, UAV based package delivery, and environmental monitoring. We present use cases and applications that the Flourish technologies could directly be applied.

• Environmental monitoring tasks: The automated continuous survey of fields using cooperating UAVs and UGVs could directly transfer to other forms of environmental monitoring.
• The Commercial Space Sector: The high precision actuation needed for automated intervention within fields could be directly applied to tool placement and high accuracy guidance for aerospace applications is the future commercial space sector.
• Commercial Forestry: The advances in UGV navigation will generalize to other flora-rich environments.
• Commercial Construction: The UAV/UGV team could be used to perform daily survey of construction sites.
• Industrial Inspection: The UAV/UGV team enables large-scale survey of industrial sites, the multi-spectral maps allow inspection for geometry and heat emission, and continuous survey strategy will allow problems to be identified early, potentially stopping problems before they happen and increasing safety for workers.
• Civil Inspection: Multi-spectral imagery used within the Flourish project is able to map heat emission or other spectra to three-dimensional geometry.
• Automated UAV-based package delivery: The navigation techniques developed in Flourish can be directly applied to the application and this includes localization (WP2, Task 2.1), path planning, and collision avoidance (WP3).

Related information

Record Number: 194983 / Last updated on: 2017-02-20
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