Computer science students use innovation, technology for drone ideation project

A UAB instructor gave his students the chance to work on a group ideation drone project, developing new ways to use drones for farming.

Teams of computer science students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have helped improve the future of drone usage.

Last fall, students in UAB professor Ramaraju Rudraraju’s software engineering class were tasked with a project to take part in ideation for practical uses of drones in farming environments. Through the project, they created a program to map out a farm and various flight patterns and controls for a drone.  

“This project can change the way farming is done throughout the world by taking some simple large-scale tasks, such as monitoring crop growth or crop dusting, and making them more time-efficient, as well as allowing farmers more detailed control over their farms,” said Trey Moore Hogan, a UAB computer science major. “It also opens the door for other tasks that were previously thought to be unreasonable or impossible with traditional farming methods.” 

Caleb Falcione, UAB senior mathematics and computer science major, says the project involved building a desktop graphical user interface application with JavaFX that allows the user to encode the physical layout of a space, and then interface with a drone to fly around that space.  

“The idea is that a fully realized version of the system would have a drone scan a farm to gather data on crop health, livestock, etc.,” Falcione said. “Since the specific software we wrote was made by small teams of undergrads over the course of a semester, it isn’t suitable for use in the real world. I do believe that some startups are offering products similar to what we emulated, however. Those seem promising for decreasing operational cost and noticing yield-affecting issues sooner in farms.”

Senay Patel, a UAB computer science major, says this was one of the best projects he has ever worked on.

“This was the first time I have ever worked on a real-world project,” Patel said. “Technology is the present and will be the future, as well. One of the major parts of innovation is drones, and automating many tasks with the help of drones. I am sure there will be a time when we will see drones everywhere just like we see cars.”

The final demonstration required each team to demonstrate its program’s ability to maneuver a drone to desired locations over a miniature farm that was set up by the instructor and teaching assistants.  

“Incorporating cutting-edge applications into classroom teaching is part of a broader initiative to further enhance the competitiveness of our academic programs,” said Yuliang Zheng, Ph.D., chair of UAB’s Department of Computer Science. “The goal is multifold: Students not only receive hands-on practical training in the state-of-the-art technology, but also build their teamworking skills and ultimately improve their marketability in a hyper-competitive job market.”