Bioengineering Capstone Team Featured in NSIN Newsletter

Photo courtesy of John Griffin

The National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) featured Northeastern Bioengineering Capstone Team D in their national newsletter. The capstone project “Drone-Aided Forest Health Monitoring For Sustainable, Regulation-Conscious Harvest Of Wood Biomass,” sponsored by the NSIN and the United States Space Force, was selected out of all their sponsored capstone projects across the country. Capstone Team D, advised by Associate Teaching Professor Michael Jaeggli, included bioengineering undergraduates Madeline Brookings, Daniela Elder-Gotta, Sara Khanna, Lauren Morris, Ilsa Olsen, and Kelli Valentini.

Capstone Team D posing with their sensor system device.

Motivation, Background, and Overview

The United States Space Force asked the National Security Innovation Network to evaluate a key issue for using the New Boston Space Force Station (NBSFS) as a source for wood biomass. NBSFS is located on a 2,800-acre temperate timberland in New Hampshire. Wood biomass is regarded as a carbon-neutral energy source; however, clearing timber releases sequestered greenhouse gases and reduces the filtration of airborne particulate matter (PM) by plant surfaces. The intention of this project is to develop a sensor system that, in the future, can be integrated with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for continual monitoring of forest gas emissions and particulate matter levels—promoting responsible forest management and air quality maintenance throughout the process of biomass harvest. Historically, such monitoring has been accomplished with satellite technology and fixed monitoring stations; however, the coverage of the former is too broad for accurate measurement, while the latter lacks necessary mobility to cover the entire site. Similar existing products are either commercially unavailable, out-of-budget, or not specialized to comprehensively monitor forest gases and particulate matter. Sensors capable of precise detection of the target species—namely carbon dioxide (CO2 ), PM2.5, and PM10—include the SCD-30 NDIR CO2 sensor and the Plantower PMSA003I Air Quality Breakout sensor. Sensor array housing, power source, microcontroller integration, and data handling software are considered in a series of trade studies—wherefrom leading design components are indicated. Team D has constructed an independent sensor system to aid in indication of the impact of biomass harvest on local greenhouse gas flux, PM presence, and thus forest heath—designed with reference to the accuracy of acquired data, price, component availability, upkeep, ability to withstand atmospheric conditions, and compatibility with a commercially available drone. By conducting drone-based testing and stationary pole-mounted testing of the system at the Northeastern University Burlington Expeditionary Cyber and Unmanned Aerial System (ECUAS) Lab, individual sensor data acquisition interference caused by the drone and neighboring sensors was evaluated prior to the presentation of the final prototype. Though external to the scope of BIOE Capstone, an eventual goal is onsite, drone-mounted sampling at NBSFS.

Related Faculty: Michael Jaeggli

Related Departments:Bioengineering