Dübendorf ZH – Researchers from Empa and Imperial College London have developed drones that can attach sensors to trees, which then collect data themselves. This will help improve monitoring of environmental and ecological changes in forests.

Monitoring environmental and ecological changes in forests is tricky. This is especially true of hard-to-navigate biomes like the Amazon rainforest. A team of researchers from Imperial College London and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) in Dübendorf has now developed a drone that offer a solution.

Drones place sensors in the forest
The flying robots can place arrows equipped with sensors even in dense forests. Image: Imperial College London

 

As was explained in an Empa press release, the drones can place darts that contain the sensor on trees. They can either shoot sensor-containing darts onto trees several meters away or place sensors through contact or by perching on tree branches. The drones equipped with cameras can also collect data themselves, acting as mobile sensors.

The drones are currently still controlled by people, but the plan is to make the drones autonomous in future. “I like to think of them as artificial forest inhabitants who will soon watch over the ecosystem and provide the data we need to protect these ecosystems,” says Marko Kovac in the press release. Marko Kovac is head of the Materials and Technology Center of Robotics at Empa and the Aerial Robotics Lab at Imperial.

The researchers have tested their drones at NEST experimental robot testing space at Empa in Dübendorf and on trees at Imperial’s Silwood Park Campus in the UK.

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