Luys Scholar’s Quest for Agricultural Sustainability Using Airborne Drones

Luys scholar at MIT Armen Mkrtchyan is dreaming big about the sustainability of rural communities in Armenia. With a background in aeronautics and astronautics, Armen is working on the unheard-of — an airborne drone that can analyze the quality of soil for Armenian farmers using imagery.

The problem farmers have faced for decades has been properly caring for the health and viability of their land.

“Farmers tend to treat their farm as a homogenous piece of land, which it’s not,” Armen explains. “They apply the same amount of fertilizer and pesticide to the whole field, although different parts of the field don’t grow crops the same way so they don’t need the same amount of treatment. This often results in a lot of wasted fertilizer and pesticide for some areas.”

Armen has developed a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that flies by itself, like a drone. He actually calls it an “agrodrone,” which is hand launched and flies over crop fields, taking pictures. The software Armen has written can analyze the images and provide a vegetation health map that shows the health of areas of land.

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