Bodkin Design Nets USDA Funding for UAV Sensor

Massachusetts-based Bodkin Design & Engineering LLC has received $100,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the development of a compact hyperspectral imager for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms. The company says the UAV camera will monitor water stress in plants, in addition to measuring fertilizer and chemical distribution in farm fields.

Water stress, in addition to disease and nutrient stresses of crops, can be estimated by measuring optical spectral reflectance from the canopy. BD&E says the USDA is interested in hyperspectral imaging, or imaging spectroscopy, to aid in the crop stress efforts because this technique combines the spatial image with spectral analysis to build up a three-dimensional data cube containing information that cannot be seen by the human eye. The vast amount of information contained in these images allows for more accurate identification of materials, the company adds.

“BD&E’s patented design provides a highly sensitive instrument for this application in a simple, low-cost, robust package. A prototype hyperspectral imager has been demonstrated in the lab, and under this program, we will demonstrate its efficacy in the field,” said Andrew Bodkin, owner and founder of BD&E.

According to the company, there are several methods currently available for acquiring hyperspectral images, but they are limited in their ability to satisfy the USDA’s need for spatial fidelity in airborne imagery while keeping costs down. BD&E says the device it is building will capture spectral and spatial information in one instantaneous video frame. This nine-month-long project is funded under the USDA’s Small Business Innovation Research program.

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