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What is smart rangeland

Automated Sensor Testing & Validation Platform

The goal of this project is to compare ground and aerial-borne sensor arrays to evaluate their utility to accurately measure biomass, sense vegetation health, identify thermal and spectral signatures of grasshoppers, and evaluate grasshopper density levels with the assistance of a “smart range.”

This will represent an exploratory entry into methods to compare two modes of survey: ground and aerial. To simulate aerial surveys, a gantry system will be constructed to carry sensors across a grassy area planted with native rangeland species. This area will be manipulated to suit different study purposes.

This study will focus on the consistent, repetitive sampling of rangelands under various manipulated conditions, and various times of day under a variety of weather conditions. Additionally, this research will identify pathways to improve data driven rapid response through the automation of data processing and analysis. This system has the potential to be expanded to look for invasive plants, such as Dalmatian toadflax.

Field experiments require significant time related to the travel, acquisition and processing of data. Currently, image collection for multispectral analysis has to be captured on a cloudless day between +/- 2.5 hours solar noon. Remote field work and time demands present substantial hurdles. Therefore, using a smart rangeland location next to our lab fitted with a suspension array and electronic perimeter will allow nearly constant data collection within a test area that can be manipulated in ways not possible on native rangelands. This will allow testing of sensors in a repetitive manner before using free-flying or roving unmanned vehicles. It will also allow testing at night as unmanned vehicles do not depend on visual cues for navigation.

 
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Elevated Track

For more precise movement over the support structure, angled steel railings will be mounted on top of the support structure. The use of angled railing helps ensure both ends of the gantry remain aligned on the track. Minor adjustments can be made to account for any misalignment or variation in the underlying support structure.

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Beam Trolly

To propel the gantry lengthwise along the track, a motor on each end will precisely move both sides at a matched pace and distance. Precise movement will be achieved using geared DC motors with high-resolution rotary encoders to track rotation angles and speeds. V-groove wheels will ensure the trolley self-aligns on the angled track.

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Sensor Trolly

Steel strut channel was chosen to support the sensor package and allow easy traversal (Figure 5). A motor mounted on the trolley will control movement across the span of the gantry with the same high precision motors and rotary encoders as used on the beam trolleys.