Automated Leaf-Level Hyperspectral Imaging of Soybean Plants using an UAV with a 6 DOF Robotic Arm
Nowadays, soybean is one the most consumed crops in the world. As the human population continuously increases, new phenotyping technology is needed to help plant scientists breed soybean that has high-yield, stress-tolerant, and disease-tolerant traits. Hyperspectral imaging (HSI) is one of the most commonly used technologies for phenotyping. The current HSI techniques include HSI tower and remote sensing on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or satellite. There are several noise sources the current HSI technologies suffer from such as changes in lighting conditions, leaf angle, and other environmental factors. To reduce the noise on HS images, a new portable, leaf-level, high-resolution HSI device was developed for corn leaves in 2018 called LeafSpec. Due to the previous design requiring a sliding action along the leaf which could damage the leaf if used on a soybean leaf, a new design of the LeafSpec was built to meet the requirements of scanning soybean leaves. The new LeafSpec device protects the leaf between two sheets of glass, and the scanning action is automated by using motors and servos. After the HS images have been collected, the current modeling method for HS images starts by averaging all the plant pixels to one spectrum which causes a loss of information because of the non-uniformity of the leaf. When comparing the two modeling methods, one uses the mean normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and the other uses the NDVI heatmap of the entire leaf to predict the nitrogen content of soybean plants. The model that uses NDVI heatmap shows a significant increase in prediction accuracy with an R2 increase from 0.805 to 0.871. Therefore, it can be concluded that the changes occurring within the leaf can be used to train a better prediction model.
Although the LeafSpec device can provide high-resolution leaf-level HS images to the researcher for the first time, it suffers from two major drawbacks: intensive labor needed to gather the image data and slow throughput. A new idea is proposed to use a UAV that carries a 6 degree of freedom (DOF) robotic arm with a LeafSpec device as an end-effect to automatically gather soybean leaf HS images. A new UAV is designed and built to carry the large payload weight of the robotic arm and LeafSpec.