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Aerial Data Collection and Analysis, and Automated Ground Intervention for Precision Farming

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - Flourish (Aerial Data Collection and Analysis, and Automated Ground Intervention for Precision Farming)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2018-08-31

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.
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.
The goal of the Flourish project is therefore 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.
To achieve the goals presented the above list, the Flourish project is split up into 10 work packages (WP). The achievement on each WP until the period covered by the report is as follows.
WP1 : This work package targets the use-case specific challenges for the project and all tasks within this work package are completed.
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 optimized survey path taking into consideration field coverage, scientifically defined areas of interest and battery constraints while detecting and avoiding any obstacles in its path. Outdoor field tests and evaluation are progressing.
WP4 : This work package addresses the field-related perception challenges of 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 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.
WP7 : This work package converts the field of cooperative UAV and UGV environment models to create consistent models for both, any robot as well as the human. 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’s sites. Project-wide development repository setup, integration plan are complete 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. Work package leaders report progress and status to the coordinator and the steering committee.
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. The main impacts of the project are two folds: 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. 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
● 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 multispectral 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).
Flourish Concept
Bonirob in Action
Flourish Results