Autonomous Inspection for Environmental Impact and Sustainability Monitoring
PI: Hawes, Nick
Department: Engineering Science (DF)
Humans have an immense impact on the natural world. Climate change, habitat destruction, direct exploitation (e.g., poaching) and the facilitation of invasive species threaten over one million species with extinction before 2100. As a result, we need ambitious, effective, and flexible solutions to aid in monitoring and protecting biodiversity. While remaining the essential core component of biodiversity research, direct monitoring of ecosystems by humans is expensive, inefficient, error-prone, and time-consuming at the spatial scales needed. Therefore, autonomous data collection and processing (e.g. via robots and sensor networks) has the potential to rapidly improve the cost-effectiveness of biodiversity monitoring.
Through previous research we have developed a system for biodiversity monitoring based on a combination of ground and aerial robots, multi-spectral imaging, and distributed fixed sensors. This system is currently installed at the Wytham Woods living lab, monitoring biodiversity changes at 40 grassland plots undergoing different interventions to simulate the effects of climate change.
In this Impact Delivery project we will explore the impact that our monitoring system could have through other stakeholders. We will build relationships with up two ten potential new users, starting from a local non-governmental organisation (the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust), a local business that relies on natural capital (Blenheim Palace), and a public institution (the Botanical Gardens of the University of Oxford and its Harcourt Arboretum). Through an iterative process we will identify a single user to work more closely with. We will then specialise our existing monitoring system to their requirements, and evaluate it at their site for a extended trial. Using the results of this trial we will develop a detailed impact case study that we can use to motivate future knowledge transfer and innovation activities.