X

Facial recognition for cows: Drones on the farm

One research project is experimenting with drones to monitor cattle health.

headshot2
headshot2

Molly Price

See full bio

cattle-drones-11
1 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Using drones to monitor cattle health

Researchers at the University of Kentucky are developing an autonomous drone system to monitor cattle health in pasture. The drones will capture indicators like heart rate, body temperature and weight. 

cattle-drones-4
2 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Drone flight testing

In the basement of the mechanical engineering building on campus, a team is testing automated drones flying in formation around a model cow (named Chuck). 

cattle-drones-16
3 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Drone teams

The drones work in a set of four. Three worker drones hover around the cow, while a fourth observer drone uses its cameras to locate each worker drone. 

cattle-drones-8
4 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Synchronizing drones

In the lab, the worker drone is simulated by cameras perched at the top of the wall. Those cameras triangulate cow and drone locations via retro-reflective markers. 

cattle-drones-17
5 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Worker drones

These modified 3DR Solo worker drones are labeled and equipped with gray markers so the observer cameras can track them. 

cattle-drones-9
6 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Command center

A controller keys in simple commands to initiate drone flight phases. Other than that, all the flying is autonomous. 

cattle-drones-18
7 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Recognizing cattle

In order to recognize individual cattle in the field, the team needs to train the drone software with 3D models built from photos of real cows. 

cattle-drones-20
8 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Photo booth

This special pen is equipped with 40 cameras that take a simultaneous photo from 40 different angles to build a 3D model. 

cattle-drones-25
9 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Flying on the farm

The next phase of testing is flying drones around cattle in the field, to gauge cattle reactions and any possible stressors. 

cattle-drones-23
10 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Observer drone

This observer drone flies above the worker drones to capture location and image data. 

cattle-drones-40
11 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Takeoff

The drones in these field tests are controlled manually and flown around the cattle for 5-10 minutes per flight test.

cattle-drones-43
12 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Worker drone

A worker drone prepares to fly into the field to observe a small herd.

cattle-drones-26
13 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Worker drone

The worker drone lands on a special landing pad at command center. 

cattle-drones-44
14 of 14 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The future of farming

Autonomous health monitoring is just one way technology like drones can improve the efficiency and quality of cattle health monitoring. 

More Galleries

2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More

More Galleries

2022's Best TV Shows You Can't Miss on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and More

93 Photos
The 40 Best Games on Nintendo Switch

More Galleries

The 40 Best Games on Nintendo Switch

41 Photos
Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

More Galleries

Movies Coming in 2022 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

80 Photos
2023 Toyota BZ4X Is a Smooth, Comfortable Electric SUV

More Galleries

2023 Toyota BZ4X Is a Smooth, Comfortable Electric SUV

33 Photos
The 51 Best VR Games

More Galleries

The 51 Best VR Games

53 Photos
55 weird objects seen on Mars, explained

More Galleries

55 weird objects seen on Mars, explained

57 Photos
2022 Audi E-Tron GT Looks Super Cool In Tactical Green

More Galleries

2022 Audi E-Tron GT Looks Super Cool In Tactical Green

40 Photos