World-class drone infrastructure to support research

Monash University has launched the Drone Discovery Platform for researchers.

Professor Ian Smith, Vice-Provost (Research & Research Infrastructure), said drones provide huge opportunities across all of the University’s priority research areas.

“Science and technology disciplines are obvious, but there are also significant applications for drones and airborne sensors to support research in the social sciences and humanities,” Professor Smith said.

Universities and research organisations across Australia use drones to gather vital data on everything from agricultural crop health to infrastructure assessment and management.

The Monash Faculty of Science is playing a key role with the Drone Discovery Platform, with Dr Rohan Clarke from the School of Biological Sciences appointed director of the Platform facility.

“Our research community increasingly requires high resolution data to be captured by two or more simultaneously operated sensors. To achieve this we need to rely on UAV’s that can carry these payloads, whilst also achieving extended endurance and agility in the air,” Dr Clarke said.

Monash Technology Research Platforms are operated under the globally recognised ISO 9001 certification, with the university providing leadership in quality, safety, reporting and operating standards in this new and rapidly developing area.

Dr Clarke acknowledged the significant support of the Australian Research Councils Linkage, Infrastructure and Equipment Fund, alongside partner institutions, which have provided important capacity to acquire high-end drones and world-leading airborne sensors including LiDAR, Hyperspectral cameras and an L-Band radiometer.

Monash researchers have previously identified the diverse challenges of using drones for their work. Such challenges range from equipment selection and acquisition, through to safe and compliant operations, to a need to analyse or store exceptional volumes of data as part of the workflow.

“This is where the Drone Discovery Platform becomes part of the one-stop-shop offering for any project,” Dr Clarke said.

“We not only conceptualise the projects’ hardware needs and scope, but we work with our end users to address what analytical techniques and tools they may need once the data is collected.”

As with the other 32 Monash Technology Research Platforms, the Drone Discovery Platform is open access, welcoming collaboration and partnership with non-University members of the research and industrial communities.

Professor Smith encouraged researchers to partner with the Platform.

“Industry, government and other research institutions will benefit from our determination to see how far drone technology can take us when it comes to addressing some of the largest questions our planet faces at the moment –ultimately addressing human sustainability and the stability of our built environments and the natural world,” Professor Smith said.

PLATFORM BACKGROUNDER

Monash University brings drones together with advanced sensing technologies and smart analytics. This Platform is positioned as the first user-driven facility to service Science, Engineering, IT & Arts disciplines. The facility drives developments in drones, analytics and sensing technology, establishing Monash as a leader in the application of this technology and building unique interdisciplinary relationships including collaborations between the STEM disciplines and Arts. It has a national scope, to meet the emerging needs of federal and state agencies, enable industry partnerships and maximise the impact of Monash research and education.

Areas of application

Drones bridge the scale gap between ground observations and satellite/aviation observations, whilst also providing safe, efficient access in a multitude of additional settings. Critical uses across Monash and the wider research community include:

Developers – robotic vision/AI, swarm robotics, immersive visualisation, augmented reality, cybersecurity, data storage

Earth Science – regional/local geophysics, outcrop characterisation, minerals exploration, earthquake/volcano hazard, geomorphology and landscape evolution

Environment & Agriculture – urban climate, soil health/erosion, water management, bushfire hazard, coastal erosion, crop health, soil nutrient sensing, soil moisture, forestry

Biology – megafauna tracking/health, population monitoring, feral species impacts, vegetation structure and composition

Arts, Archaeology & Anthropology – social and cultural dimensions, site inspections, dig records, geomorphological context, song lines

Infrastructure – rail culverts & tunnels, track maintenance, infrastructure corrosion, mine ground control, mine production, transport systems (road, autonomous vehicles etc), architecture, Monash precinct (building inspection & campus models)


For more information see: https://www.monash.edu/researchinfrastructure/drone