(Faculty Mentor: David P. Arnold, George Kirkland Engineering Leadership Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Florida) www.img.ufl.edu/darnold
Location: University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)
Precision agriculture aims to increase food production while minimizing agriculture inputs of water, energy, and fertilizers. One can envision swarms of aerial drones and ground-based robots that collect data over vast plots of row or tree corps. These robots will collect vast amounts of data over long periods of times. While autonomous robot operation (localization, navigation, and mapping) is quickly becoming a reality, these systems still require a human to plug-in and recharge their batteries. Due in part to this power problem, scaling these approaches to hundreds of robots over vast areas swaths of farmland is hindered by (a) the vast physical distances required, (b) the limited availability of electrical power sources, and (c) the potentially wet /dirty conditions of an outdoor environment. To meet this need, the focus of this project is to develop self-sustaining, field-deployable, aerodromes to support autonomous recharging of quad-copter style aerial drones. These systems will be 100% solar-powered and make use of wireless power transfer, but must also be ruggedized for operation in wet, dusty, field-deployed locations. For this project, the system must source power from a solar panel, and support autonomous recharging without any human intervention, i.e. the drone lands, recharges itself, and then continues on a mission. Additional optional enhancements may include data communication between the drone and charging station to transfer information such as state-of-charge, location/availability of a charging station; simultaneous multi-drone charging using multiple landing sites; a “smart” air-traffic controller that would manage prioritization/sequencing of multiple drones based on state of charge and availability of a charging station.