Purdue University Graduate School

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PhenoBee: Drone-Based Robot for Advanced Field Proximal Phenotyping in Agriculture

posted on 2023-12-19, 19:43 authored by Ziling ChenZiling Chen

The increasing global need for food security and sustainable agriculture underscores the urgency of advancing field phenotyping for enhanced plant breeding and crop management. Soybean, a major global protein source, is at the forefront of these advancements. Proximal sensing in soybean phenotyping offers a higher signal-to-noise ratio and resolution but has been underutilized in large-scale field applications due to low throughput and high labor costs. Moreover, there is an absence of automated solutions for in vivo proximal phenotyping of dicot plants. This thesis addresses these gaps by introducing a comprehensive, technologically sophisticated approach to modern field phenotyping.

Fully Automated Proximal Hyperspectral Imaging System: The first chapter presents the development of a cutting-edge hyperspectral imaging system integrated with a robotic arm. This system surpasses traditional imaging limitations, providing enhanced close-range data for accurate plant health assessment.

Robust Leaf Pose Estimation: The second chapter discusses the application of deep learning for accurate leaf pose estimation. This advancement is crucial for in-depth plant analysis, fostering better insights into plant health and growth, thereby contributing to increased crop yield and disease resistance.

PhenoBee – A Drone Mobility Platform: The third chapter introduces 'PhenoBee,' a dronebased platform designed for extensive field phenotyping. This innovative technology significantly broadens the capabilities of field data collection, showcasing its viability for widespread aerial phenotyping.

Adaptive Sampling for Dynamic Waypoint Planning: The final chapter details an adaptive sampling algorithm for efficient, real-time waypoint planning. This strategic approach enhances field scouting efficiency and precision, ensuring optimal data acquisition.

By integrating deep learning, robotic automation, aerial mobility, and intelligent sampling algorithms, the proposed solution revolutionizes the adaptation of in vivo proximal phenotyping on a large scale. The findings of this study highlight the potential to automate agriculture activities with high scalability and identify nutrient deficiencies, diseases, and chemical damage in crops earlier, thereby preventing yield loss, improving food quality, and expediting the development of agricultural products. Collectively, these advancements pave the way for more effective and efficient plant breeding and crop management, directly contributing to the enhancement of global food production systems. This study not only addresses current limitations in field phenotyping but also sets a new standard for technological innovation in agriculture.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jian Jin

Additional Committee Member 2

Melba Crawford

Additional Committee Member 3

James Krogmeier

Additional Committee Member 4

Katy Rainey

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