A community owned autonomous drone that communicates sensor data to provide efficient farming strategies

Work done with Jeffrey Miller,in collaboration with DeepMind Google

Exhibitied in Lethaby Gallery 2021
Precision agriculture incorporates information technology and robotics into farming practices to optimize yield and minimize resources. Most of the world’s demand for water comes from agriculture, while crop yields must increase 69% by 2035 to feed our growing population. The use of innovative technologies to better inform farming decisions is needed. However, we need to consider the implications for smaller farms if they do not have fair access or the expertise to operate these technologies.

For this exhibition, a rural farming community in Edirne, Turkey was used as a case study to develop the prototype. Conversations with farmers showed that the investment for current precision farming technology posed too high a financial risk for individual farmers. Furthermore, the mostly older population were reluctant to alter their current farming practices with newer and relatively unknown technology. In response, a community-owned autonomous drone blimp hybrid was devised, to reduce the financial risk of individually purchasing one and to encourage collective decisions and cooperation between farms.

The drone blimp hybrid was designed to traverse long distances throughout multiple farms in the area while optimising energy efficiency. A telescopic probe navigates vertically through crops and gathers soil moisture and quality data for efficient water and fertiliser usage while a thermal imaging camera identifies disease and infestation. Each farm has a charging station with an accessible interface that displays data on the status of the farm and provides actions that the farmer can take to improve crop health and resource usage. Data is stored digitally, but can also be printed directly from the station for farmers to keep for their records.