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A UAS-based RF Testbed for Water Utilization in Agroecosystems

Kurum, M., Gurbuz, A. C., Barnes, S., Boyd, D. R., Farhad, M., & Senyurek, V. (2021). A UAS-based RF Testbed for Water Utilization in Agroecosystems. Autonomous Air and Ground Sensing Systems for Agricultural Optimization and Phenotyping VI. Proc. SPIE 11747: International Society for Optics and Photonics. 11747, 117470J. DOI:10.1117/12.2591895.

Abstract

Agroecosystems compose large economic sectors in dominantly agriculture-based societies. Availability and management of water resources have a huge influence on the sustainability of agroecosystems. Low soil moisture is a major constraint on crop growth due to its vital role in providing crops with sufficient nutrition for root uptake. Current methodologies in precision agriculture are insufficient for direct soil moisture sensing since reflected shortwave solar radiation and infrared long-wave emission can only provide information about surface characteristics. While microwave signals are known to be highly sensitive to water within plants and soil, its implementation from small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) platforms are at relatively low technological readiness level compared to the use of shortwave / longwave optical sensors. In this paper, we summarize our efforts to apply radio frequency (RF) / microwave remote sensing from UAS for water utilization in agroecosystems. Recently, we developed a comprehensive UAS-based RF testbed, including a microwave radiometer, a scatterometer, wideband ground penetrating radar system as well as Signals of Opportunity (SoOp) receivers. These instruments operate from UAS platforms and use the microwave / radio wave portions of the spectrum. The testbed is accompanied with proximal sensing via autonomous unmanned ground vehicles that acquire in- situ soil moisture and vegetation geophysical parameters to provide appropriate datasets for training and testing physics aware, machine learning-based models. In this paper, we introduce the RF sensing framework that can enable non-intrusive high-resolution soil moisture estimates at multiple depths of soil via UAS-based active / passive / SoOp RF instruments.


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