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  • Flow Field Imaging Lab

Real-time mapping of particle transportation during wildfire using Drone based imaging system

Our postdoctoral researcher Nate Bristow piloted a drone (Betty) towards a thick plume of smoke while a prescribed fire crew continued with their burn, setting alight the prairie and now-rare oak savannah of the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, a field station under the University’s College of Biological Sciences.

Laden with a camera, digital inline holographic (DIH) particle sensor and a small computer which acts as its brain, this specialized drone is being developed as part of the Grand Atmospheric-scale Imagining Apparatus (GAIA) project, led by SAFL’s Professor Jiarong Hong (Department of Mechanical Engineering), with SAFL’s Associate Director of Research Michele Guala (Department of Civil, Environmental and Geo- Engineering) as co-PI. As Professor Hong explains, “In a nutshell, we are developing a flying microscope by combining drone and holography technology together. This microscope can direct image suspended microparticles in the air without us collecting samples and putting them on a glass slide under a conventional microscope in the lab. With further integration of AI, we expect our flying microscope can autonomously classify and track these suspended microparticles dispersing in the atmosphere over a long distance, revealing the full dynamics of pollutant transport in a real environment.”


Media credits to: St. Anthony Falls Laboratory



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