Grant Allows Student Research Team To Further Develop GPS Agricultural Drone

gps for crop spraying
When it comes to exciting innovations in technology, where would we be without the research teams at colleges and universities? One of the newest tech ideas comes from a team of student researchers at the Middlesex County Academy for Science. This team is working on a GPS tracker drone that can spray crops for farmers.

This team doesn’t need to worry about funding either. The Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam Program has just pledged a grant of $10,000 to the school’s young researchers.

Schools Helping Schools

The MIT InvenTeam Program exists to give those with revolutionary ideas for inventions an economic boost to help push the idea into reality. They seek out ideas that solve real problems, and this crop dusting drone will help farmers save money by “efficiently and accurately” spraying crops with pesticides.

Agriculture is still a rich part of our heritage here in the US, but it is increasingly more difficult with farmers realizing it just isn’t going to pay the bills. MIT realizes that this is one solution to the problem, and is betting these students figure out a way to invent an unmanned, GPS tracker driven drone that farmers can actually afford.

The Drone

It is designed to spray crops on smaller-sized farms. The unmanned vehicle measures 5 feet across and features 16-inch rotors. Not only will the drone rely on a GPS tracker to manipulate its way over the fields, it will also feature a camera for visual tracking. The main goal of the team: keep the drone affordable. After all, farmers are looking to increase profits. Hard to do that when you are required to spend a fortune on the drone!

The team the school has assembled to work on the project is impressive. It consists of a pesticide specialist from Rutgers, drone expert from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (who actually helped create the Predator drone the military relies on), computer vision specialist, expert in aerial crop dusting, and the senior manager at Lockheed Martin, just to name a few.

The Program’s Goal

The grant program itself seeks out those individuals making a difference by creating things that make a real change for the better in their own communities. With a rich background of farming in the Middlesex County area, the Edison Academy students are doing just that.

And just who decides the recipient of the grant? Judges consist of a wide range of people — MIT professors, researchers, and alumni, experts within the industry, and those who were chosen to receive the Lemelson-MIT award in the past — all worked to make a final decision.

In all, there were 15 finalists chosen for consideration to receive the grant. School officials are thrilled, stating it displays their devotion to working hard on solving real world problems with the education they are receiving there.

We often write about the use of GPS trackers when it comes to wildlife, but it’s nice to see GPS technology being used for practical uses like spraying fields of crops. Don’t you agree? And, of course, if you’re looking for a GPS tracker, we have what you need!


Photo by MASEV via Flickr Creative Commons

Tracking Bighorn Sheep in the Mohave Desert

bighorn_gps_trackingApparently, it is flu season for more than just the human population! Animals get sick too! Right now, the bighorn sheep in the Mojave Desert are coming down with a fatal case of pneumonia. Experts are trying to determine how bad it actually is, so they’re employing the use of both GPS trackers and helicopters to help the sheep.

The project will cost $48,000, and will hopefully keep the herds of sheep safe from disease. There are over 100 of the animals currently, and the strain of pneumonia has wiped out two entire herds. That’s bad news.

Solving The Mystery

Rangers aren’t sure what is causing the pneumonia outbreak. One theory is that wild sheep are being infected by domestic sheep. If a domestic sheep is ill and mixes with a wild population, the wild sheep can become sick.

Both the ‘California Department of Fish and Wildlife’ and the ‘National Park Service’ hope that the GPS trackers and helicopter survey can bring some answers. The study will take place over a period of four days beginning this Sunday, and officials are hoping it will put an end to this pneumonia outbreak.

The Study

The helicopters will take to the skies above the roughly 80,430 acres of desert to find the herds of bighorns, concentrating on areas where sick or dead animals have been discovered. The National Park Service will pick up the tab for the helicopters, which can fly for seven hours per day. The cost for tho is a whopping $1,600 per hour!

When a sheep is discovered, the helicopter will fly low and shoot a net meant to capture the animal. On board, they’ll blindfold the captured sheep to keep it calm, restrain its legs so no one is injured, collect blood samples, take a nasal swab, and affix a GPS tracker. Afterward, the animal will be released back into the desert.

In all, 54 GPS trackers will be employed. If the GPS tracker senses the animal isn’t moving, an alert will be initiated stating the animal has died so that researchers can head to its location to take further samples. The collars will remain operational for about four years.

Getting Answers

The team collaring the animals consists of biologists, veterinarians, and others to aid in their capture. The veterinarian will make the decision regarding what should be done with an animal. Healthy sheep will receive GPS trackers, while sick animals will be put down for immediate autopsy.

No one really knows how many have died. These animals are quite nomadic, moving from location to location based on water sources. This time of year, there are more areas water is available, so the herds tend to spread out over a large distance. Officials knew they had a problem on their hands when they found the first of the dead sheep in mid-May.

Half of the herd roaming the Old Dad Mountain area have died. The disease was found to have spread in August to the Marble Mountains. It has been confirmed that both herds in each location were afflicted with the same strain of pneumonia.

While bighorns are susceptible to this disease, humans cannot be infected.

While you probably don’t need to worry about tracking an animal population in order to save them, there is most certainly an aspect of your life that could use a GPS tracker. Contact us today to determine the perfect solution for you!

5 Ways GPS Helps The Farming Industry

gps_and_farmingFarming is tough work. That work is made even tougher by pests and droughts, and a growing population that demands more food sources. Is there a way to make farming more efficient?

The future of farming might have a lot to do with GPS tracking.

The Role Of GPS In Farming

You’d be surprised how many different applications there are for GPS tracking in agriculture! Its use is on the rise, as farmers have figured out just how useful this technological tool can be.

Here’s a little list of ways farmers use GPS trackers to produce more food for the world:

  • Plan for planting. Using a GPS tracker, a farmer maps the fields available for planting. They can map more than just location, but topographical as well. This allows them to determine which fields are best for specific crops, and how they can plant the most for the money.
  • More efficient pest control. Whether spraying by machine or relying on a cropduster, those in the field can notate the GPS coordinates of areas being attacked by pests or disease so that later, pilots can target the specific areas affected by the pests rather than dousing the entire field in pesticides. This reduces the chemicals the food is exposed to, as well as reducing the amount of fuel and pesticides the pilot is using.
  • Guiding tractors. While a farmer still has to ride along, you can now program a tractor via GPS tracking device to plow a specific route. So let’s say you’ve mapped out your fields for the year. You set the tractor up to plow rows that are a certain distance apart, and you then plant the seeds, all using the GPS data gathered while plotting your fields. Your rows and crops planted within rows will be perfectly spaced, and you’ll save money since you won’t be double-planting rows.
  • Livestock tracking. We don’t just grow our food, we raise it too. How do you know where your livestock is at all times? Tracking with GPS, of course! Some farms can sprawl across a great distance, making it easy to lose track of where your animals are. Not with GPS trackers! Now, it’s as easy as pulling up the GPS software and pinpointing their exact location thanks to GPS tracking collars.
  • Soil sampling. Before you go and plant those crops in the areas you’ve planned out, you can use the GPS device to map out locations for soil samples. Not all soil can support any crops. Plants are kind of like animals in this respect, each requiring different combinations of nutrients to flourish. Test the soil in the locations the GPS device indicates to ensure the soil can produce healthy crops, reducing waste.

Did you realize that GPS technology could be so useful to a farmer?


Photo By Clearly Ambiguous Via Flickr Creative Commons