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I-Corps: Tethered Heterogeneous Unmanned Aerial and Ground System for Autonomous Targeted Distribution of Fluid Delivery

03-11-2020 - The Tethered Heterogeneous Unmanned Aerial and Ground System (THUAGS) is designed and developed to provide solutions to time-consuming, complicated, and costly tasks of spraying fluid onto targeted areas. The objectives of this I-Corps project are to (1) identify beachhead customers for THUAGS and (2) understand their pain points with current solutions to fluid distribution. The value proposition for THUAGS is autonomous targeted distribution of fluid spraying/delivery through self-guided unmanned aerial robot connected to a mobile unmanned ground vehicle via a flexible hose. THUAGS also offers near 24/7 operation time thanks to the uninterrupted power and data transmission provided by the tether in conjunction with the hose, the intelligent coordination among components (i.e., the aerial robot, hose, and ground vehicle), and the autonomous sensing, decision-making, data analytics, self-localization, navigation, and control capabilities. The team has participated in the Aggie-I-Corps and AgSprint programs at New Mexico State University and interviewed sixty customers engaged in utility inspection and precision agriculture. From this experience, the team found that (1) safety, flight duration, and data processing are the major expectations of the potential customers onto drone systems, and (2) existing solutions to precision agriculture using autonomous systems are either rare resources to farmers or confined by federal regulations and relative high costs. Hence, the team, firstly, believes that if the THUAGS can be presented with explicit design requirements, it can meet the needs of potential customers. Secondly, as the proposed product uses commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) electronics and mechanical components, its cost is low relative to completing solutions.