This project develops of a transformative measurement and analytical tool to empower crop managers with data to make critical decisions in the areas of water conservation and resources administration. The system consists of an autonomous robotic platform equipped with sensors to ground-validate and enhance data provided by currently available satellite systems.
The robot autonomously navigates orchards collecting data "under the canopy" that is otherwise not accessible from satellite or UAVs. Combining GPS, IMUs, and data coming from other sensors, the robot accurately localizes itself in the field and builds an accurate map of the orchard including a variety of information relevant to farmers, like presence of weeds, water leaks, and the like. The onboard control software also ensures navigation through predetermined waypoints is safe, i.e., it implements obstacle avoidance and other features handling unforeseen circumstances.
By combining and validating satellite data with samples collected by an autonomous mobile sensor suite, a new class of decision support systems can be developed. A fully functioning prototype of the proposed system is being developed and tested on the field on multiple sites on the coast and in the Central Valley. In a time of unprecedented, persistent drought, the proposed system has the potential to provide decision makers with superior information to formulate sustainable management decisions.