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Agri-EPI has invested in an array of technical assets to use in funded project work at our state-of-the-art innovation centres. Please get in touch to find out more about rental opportunities.
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The agricultural sector is a significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, with the IPCC estimating that agriculture and land use are responsible for 21% of all greenhouse emissions, and with 52% of nitrous oxide emissions coming from the sector. To help understand exactly where and how these greenhouse gases are emitted during agricultural processes, reliable measurement methods are needed. As a powerful greenhouse gas with 84 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide, methane (CH₄) needs to be accurately monitored, and its emission response to increased temperature needs to be quantified.
Mirico’s Orion® CH₄ technology has been developed to monitor methane emissions on a continuous basis across a large area, in all weathers. At the heart of all Mirico products is a revolutionary new technology- Laser Dispersion Spectroscopy (LDS). Whereas traditional optical sensing systems measure the intensity of returned light, LDS is measuring the change in frequency of the returned light. The technology provides real-time monitoring of emissions, operating specifically in the mid infra-red spectral region and enables the collection and interpretation of emissions data in all weather conditions. From this data users are able to gain insights based on accurate continuous
reporting, even in fog, rain, snow and particulate affected environments. The Mirico Orion® is able to carry out fugitive emissions monitoring, biomethane emissions monitoring, greenhouse gas analysis, and agricultural gas monitoring.
Agri-EPI has invested in Mirico’s Orion® methane measurement system and will be using it in funded project work at its state-of-the-art South West Dairy Development Centre (SWDDC) in Somerset, which aims to offer a fresh vision for sustainable UK milk production. Our unique version of this sensor, including bespoke additions to the Mirico software suite, will be available for research use at SWDDC and can be used for trials such as outdoor and indoor methane monitoring, feed trials, herbal leys trials and ground truthing of novel sensors and monitoring methods.
Compared with conventional methods of monitoring methane and ammonia
concentrations, Mirico’s Laser Dispersion Spectroscopy technology offers:
• Accurate, precise and reliable measurements
• Consistent performance in adverse weather conditions (rain, fog, snow, dust)
• Large area coverage with simple, robust equipment
• Autonomous and continuous monitoring
• Real time, reproducible data for more meaningful analysis
• Fully electric
• Lightweight for low damage
• Simple pre-planned autonomy with object detection
• High-level autonomy with ROS compatibility
• Open architecture for adding new sensors and end effectors
• Interchangeable truss frame for multiple scenarios
The RTU (Robotic Traction Unit) is an autonomous agricultural platform designed to be an adaptable platform to aid in developing agri-robotics components. It is fully open for developers to test their new technologies in the field without needing to develop their own robotic platform. This capability will help open the doors for a vast range of novel agricultural systems which maximise the benefit offered by robotics.
As a lightweight agricultural robot, the RTU represents a new approach to the farming cycle. Rather than having the size and power to pull up an entire field, light robots can conduct per-plant farming operations with minimum soil damage, maximising yields whilst minimising environmental impact.
Agri-EPIs RTU fleet have three control methods available depending on the need of the developer. At its simplest, the units can be manually controlled using an intuitive remote-control system. As a middle ground, they include an advanced autopilot system meaning the robots can drive themselves around using pre-planned routes with collision avoidance. Finally, the systems also include a powerful on-board computer running ROS, which has been configured to send control commands allowing intelligent autonomy to be quickly integrated.
These robots have also had a range of sensors integrated with them to allow for high level autonomy, mapping and collision avoidance. This includes RTK-GNSS for initial localisation, a Velodyne LiDAR for 3D point mapping and front and rear facing ZED 3D cameras for local obstacle detection.
Built almost entirely out of aluminium with mounting surfaces on the top, front and rear of the traction units, the RTU was built to last when out in the elements. Featuring a low centre of mass and a wide footprint thanks to its tracked design, the RTU can drive in any orientation on surfaces up to a 54-degree incline.
Connecting the traction units is a truss frame made entirely out of 48.3mm scaffolding pipes. By using such a standard material, it means the robot becomes very easy to configure for multiple agricultural scenarios. If a wide wheelbase is needed to cover more rows or tall frame to navigate vineyards, the truss can be simply adjusted to the requirement. With this flexibility it also broadens the realm of modularity.
These robots have been created for the needs of Agri-EPI Centre and our partners as a highly flexible and modular platform and will be gradually improved over time as a collaboration between ourselves and the manufacturer.
Agri-tech has undergone tremendous improvements with the introduction of remote sensing technologies, making many agricultural properties that were difficult to achieve before now accessible.
Multi-Spectral imaging has been widely used on satellites (e.g. Landsat) for earth observation science at a global scale. In the agricultural domain, UAVs as a platform have played a major role utilising various payload sensors including multi-spectral imaging.
The advantage of multi-spectral imaging is that it extends human sight sensitivity beyond the visible spectrum. Some wavelengths that are widely recognised for applications, such as the normalised difference vegetative index (NDVI), can be deployed into multi-spectral imaging. Nonetheless, it has been proved to be very useful in many other fields, greatly empowering the advancement of agriculture. The adoption of UAVs has made it possible to achieve large-scale mapping and thus better agricultural management.
Agri-EPI Centre has invested in the Multi-spectral VTOL UAV which has a potential use as ground truth technology for other technologies and/or systems.
This UAV and sensing payload system can be used for a variety of fruit orchard use-cases which include:
• Estimation of leaf area index
• Estimation of canopy volume
• Estimation of water stress
• Fruit biomass estimation
• Temperature variation across the orchard
• Temperature variation of specific plants over time
• Fruit count estimation
It can also be used in other agricultural areas which
• Pest infestation detection
• Quantity moisture levels
• Analyse wildlife damage
• Vegetation index creation like NDVI
• Crop counting
• Create 3D photogrammetry maps
UAV System (Quantum Systems Trinity F90+):
1. Flight time can reach to 90 minutes, making the system large area coverage (up to 700 ha) possible for mapping and surveying applications.
2. Maximum Take-Off Weight = 5KG
3. Robust operation in field (Anti-Collision Lights, wind tolerance up to 12m/s when cruising, dynamic operating temperature range)
4. PPK (Post-processing Kinematics) facility together with iBase ground reference station is able to reduce geotagging errors down to 2-5cm
1. Interchangeable payloads to cover various mapping types (visible map, NDVI map, Thermal map, point cloud)
2. Multi-Spectral sensor (MicaSense Altum, RGB NIR RE/LWIR: thermal infrared 8-14um)
3. High-Resolution RGB sensor (Sony RX1 RII, 42MP)
UAV System (XQ-1400S BFD HySpex Edition):
1. <25 kg MTOW with Mjolnir and gimbal
2. Up to 25 min flight endurance with 8 kg payload
3. Fitted with high performance GNSS/GPS and IMU to enable data to be captured to high geolocation accuracy
4. Fitted with advanced 3-axis digital gimbal to compensate for the pitching
Sensing System (HySpex Mjolnir VS-620, Velodyne VLP-32C) :
1. Fully-integrated co-aligned hyperspectral visible and near-infrared (VNIR) and short-wave infrared (SWIR) (400 – 2500nm) and LiDAR sensors, along with in-flight data capture and storage system
2. Spectral coverage of 400 – 2500 nm, with spectral resolution of 3 nm in VNIR and 5.1 nm over SWIR range. Bit resolution 12bit in VNIR and 16 bit in SWIR.
3. Double resolution data in the VNIR range
4. High-resolution (0.33 degree) LiDAR sensor, with 360° surround view with real-time 3D data
Agri-EPI Centre has invested in the Hyperspectral UAV.
Compared to multispectral imagery, hyperspectral imagery measures energy in narrower and more numerous bands, thus giving much more information on target. Hyperspectral image data is 3D cube, where each pixel holds a full spectrum across the range. Since spectra are as unique as ‘fingerprints’ to target, hyperspectral imagery can unveil features that multispectral imagery may miss out on.
Hyperspectral imaging technology has been under research for decades and has been demonstrated to be very powerful in many application areas including agriculture. Especially in recent years, with a more robust and rugged imaging product embedded onto the UAV platform, agri-tech has seen revolutionary improvements.
The HySpex turnkey UAV solution with Mjolnir VS-620 and Lidar includes all the necessary hardware and software for flight planning, data collection, data processing and calibration. The system is provided with a UAV platform, 3-axis gimbal mount for the hyperspectral unit with Lidar and corresponding spectral calibration, radiometric calibration and geometric calibration. The geometric calibration includes a sensor model for VNIR and SWIR hyperspectral sensor heads, subpixel co-alignment of the 2 sensor heads, boresight calibration of the 2 sensor heads and internal IMU system, boresight calibration of the Lidar unit and internal IMU system.
There’s a broad application potential, including but not limited to assisting in the development of products in:
• Drought/water/nutrient stress monitoring
• Plant pathogens detection
• Analysis of soil properties/Determination of soil types
• Land mapping
• Yield forecasting
• Land management
They Hyperspectral UAV has potential use as groundtruth technology for other technologies/systems as well.