University Honors College - The Honorable mention

Drone Based Tree Survey Research Opportunity

Posted by Tim on June 28, 2021 in Academics, Honors Experiences, Research Information and Opportunities

Fly Drones Initiative for Campus Tree Conservation
Undergraduate Research and Training Opportunity
Dr. Souma Chowdhury, ADAMS Lab, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University at Buffalo
Initiative Goal: To develop a systematic framework for conducting drone based aerial survey of the health of vegetation in the UB North Campus, and assist in the creation of a workshop for training students to program and fly drones for related remote sensing applications.
Initiative Description: This multidisciplinary initiative is an integral part of a project led by Dr. Souma Chowdhury on “Automated Design of Decentralized Robust and Explainable Swarm Systems”, and is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The novelty of this initiative lies in synergizing an enjoyable hands-on learning experience (in emerging technologies such as autonomous drones) for undergraduate students, with the opportunity to solve a real-world problem with direct impact on the health and wellness of our campus community. A summary description of the initiative is given below.
Our UB North campus, spanning over 5 sq. km. has seen an alarming rate of tree loss in recent years. Together with the Professional Staff Senate (PSS), we have converged on the idea of flying unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs (aka drones) to capture high-resolution images of trees to assess their health. The overall concept is to identify patches of the vegetated area to survey, design the best flight paths to conduct this survey, and then program and perform remote-controlled and supervised autonomous flights of 1-2 UAVs based on the planned flight paths over these patches of vegetation. The data collected thereof will be analyzed, under the advice and feedback of academic domain experts on vegetation health, to assess the health of the trees surveyed. These efforts will be strategically interjected with training tutorials, where the participating undergraduate students will get trained on the techniques underlying various moving parts involved in this project. Training, mentoring and day to day feedback will be provided by the PI, Dr. Chowdhury, and other graduate students working on this project.
Additional Support: University Honors College students selected to work on this project are then eligible to apply to the Honors College Research Fund for up to $1,000 per semester per student to further support the research and learning efforts under this initiative.
Expected Learning Outcomes: In this project, undergraduate students will learn to:

  1. Plan and program single and cooperative UAV flights for automated data collection, subject to weather and regulatory constraints;
  2. Prepare UAVs with appropriately mounted sensors and rain-checks for useful flight experiments;
  3. Fly UAVs safely (the new SOAR facility will be used for training in this regard);
  4. Best practices in data logging, geotagging and data processing; and
  5. Prepare technical publications and presentations for leading international conferences.
    Student Eligibility: Sophomore, Junior and Senior year students from Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Computer Science & Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Industrial & Systems Engineering, and Geography at University at Buffalo are encouraged to apply. Prior experience with programming (in C or Python), mechatronics, flying drones, and/or computer vision is a plus (but not required).
    Interested students should contact Dr. Souma Chowdhury at Please include your latest resume and unofficial transcript in your email.