Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tracking Airborne Pathogens with UAVs

Engineer Online describes a newly developed UAV that detects and
tracks airborne pathogens above agricultural areas. The autonomous
flying robot samples the air hundreds of meters above the ground,
tracking pathogens such as the Fusarium genus of fungi, which can travel
long distances at high altitudes. The autonomous robots have advantages
over both manned flights and radio controlled drones. The UAV,
developed by David
Schmale and other researchers at the Virginia Tech Center for Autonomous Systems,
can sample the air in precise patterns, often in coordinations with
other UAVs working simulatneously at different altitudes. With just 75
flights, the researchers have already cataloged 500 colonies of Fusarium
including 11 species not previously known to be transported this far
above the Earth's surface. The research will expand to
other types of pathogens, marking the begining of a field one scientist
calls aerogenomics. For more details see the Virginia
Tech news release or the VT Environment Innovations poster, Exploring
atmospheric microbial communities with autonomous unmanned aerial


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