Scenic view of a highway, Montana.

Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) right of way provides breeding grounds for noxious weed species. The purpose of this research is to determine if a drone with a multi-spectral, hyper-spectral, and/or Red Green Blue (RGB) camera can determine individual weed species by their spectral signature within MDT's impacted rights of way. MDT would like to assess if precision spot treatment of noxious weeds using drone technology in MDT rights of way is a cost-effective solution to weed management that can replace traditional treatment methods in MDT's integrated weed management plan.

This research proposes to answer 3 questions: 1) What is the appropriate imaging technology to detect and map noxious weeds in MDT's rights of ways? 2) What challenges will the current FAA regulatory environment pose to approval for flight operations? 3) What are the cost benefits of using UAS to map and treat noxious weeds over traditional treatment methods?

This research would use UAS with various sensors (hyper-spectral, multi-spectral, RGB) to detect and classify noxious weed species based on their spectral signature, develop a prescription treatment map for spot treatment using an agricultural spray drone. Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML) would likely be used for weed identification by analyzing a database of various noxious weed species. Ideally, this would improve treatment accuracy and coverage efficiency. The research goal is to determine if precision weed management using UAS and AI is a safer and more cost-effective solution to weed management over traditional methods.

Proposed: Topic Statement
Project Overview

For more information, contact Vaneza Callejas, 802-546-0217.