Facial recognition for cows: Drones on the farm


Using drones to monitor cattle health

Researchers at the University of Kentucky are developing an autonomous drone system to monitor cattle health in pasture. The drones will capture indicators like heart rate, body temperature and weight. 

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Drone flight testing

In the basement of the mechanical engineering building on campus, a team is testing automated drones flying in formation around a model cow (named Chuck). 

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Drone teams

The drones work in a set of four. Three worker drones hover around the cow, while a fourth observer drone uses its cameras to locate each worker drone. 

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Synchronizing drones

In the lab, the worker drone is simulated by cameras perched at the top of the wall. Those cameras triangulate cow and drone locations via retro-reflective markers. 

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Worker drones

These modified 3DR Solo worker drones are labeled and equipped with gray markers so the observer cameras can track them. 

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Command center

A controller keys in simple commands to initiate drone flight phases. Other than that, all the flying is autonomous. 

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Recognizing cattle

In order to recognize individual cattle in the field, the team needs to train the drone software with 3D models built from photos of real cows. 

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Photo booth

This special pen is equipped with 40 cameras that take a simultaneous photo from 40 different angles to build a 3D model. 

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Flying on the farm

The next phase of testing is flying drones around cattle in the field, to gauge cattle reactions and any possible stressors. 

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Observer drone

This observer drone flies above the worker drones to capture location and image data. 

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Takeoff

The drones in these field tests are controlled manually and flown around the cattle for 5-10 minutes per flight test.

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Worker drone

A worker drone prepares to fly into the field to observe a small herd.

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Worker drone

The worker drone lands on a special landing pad at command center. 

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The future of farming

Autonomous health monitoring is just one way technology like drones can improve the efficiency and quality of cattle health monitoring. 

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Published: Caption: Photo: Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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