The machines will speed up intel gathering on researchers’ crops.

A group of researchers plan to find the best type of sorghum (a genus in the grass family) for biofuel production with the help of aerial and ground drones. They’re planning to deploy a 25-pound autonomous helicopter with visible imaging, thermal infrared and LIDAR laser equipment to gather data on a 10-acre plot. The unmanned vehicle can fly over their crops once every two weeks for 20 minutes to take images and measurements, which will show researchers the sorghum variety that’s been thriving the most. They’re also sending out two sensor-laden land drones to take measurements at ground level.

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