New Center for Robotic Observations of the Biosphere and the Environment led by UTM Biology Professor Ingo Ensminger receives support from CFI Innovation Fund

A team of researchers led by Ingo Ensminger, Professor in the Department of Biology at U of T Mississauga will receive $4.7 million to support CROBE, the new Centre for Robotic Observations of the Biosphere and the Environment. CROBE will develop flying labs using drones and high resolution sensors that will enable researchers to study vegetation health and plant productivity, assess trace gases in the atmosphere or monitor environmental change. CROBE brings together a mix of researchers with expertise in aerospace studies, robotics, plant biology and vegetation dynamics as well as remote sensing and atmospheric sciences. Student and postdoc researchers will benefit from the new multidisciplinary research infrastructure as they tackle to better quantify the global carbon cycle, develop new tools for agriculture and precision phenotyping and for mapping of environmental and landscape change at unprecedented spatial and temporal detail.

As Prof. Ensminger explains: “CROBE will take advantage of the increasing availability of drones and lightweight sensors. Our team will develop novel robotic tools for smart control of the autonomous drone and sensor systems.”

CFI funding for CROBE also includes computer infrastructure for processing and analysing large data sets collected by the drone systems. CROBE intends to make these data available to different groups of end-users. “We will enable easy access to a wide range of data collected by our drone systems, and we want non-experts to be able to make use of the data. This is not an easy task, but our goal is to develop intuitive next generation databases and visualization tools. These days it is pretty easy to collect data at unprecedented scale and detail, and we need to make sure that researchers and even the public have access and can benefit from our research” The CROBE team consists of Ingo Ensminger and Katharina Braeutigam (UTM Biology), Yuhong He (UTM Geography), Kent Moore and Lindsay Schoenbohm (UTM Chemical and Physical Sciences), Nicholas Provart (StG CSB), Angela Schoellig (StG Aerospace Studies), Florian Skurti (UTM Computer Science), John Stinchcombe (StG EEB) and Debra Wunch (StG Physics).