Unmanned Air Vehicles Project Charter-Spring 2018

UC Merced


The Foster Family Center for Engineering Service Learning


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Leaf Scorching Detection

Cooperative Extension- Merced County

Spring 2018 Project Charter


Nathan Ibarra

Samuel Leventini

Ethan Murcia

Spencer Rude

Charles White

Darshan Bulsara

Chris Villanueva

Marco Mendez

Luis Murillo

Michael Calderon

Julian Rodriguez

Jeffrey Ng

Abel Alamillo


UC Merced Engineering Service Learning

Executive Summary

In the midst of a growing industry for aerial system applications, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Engineering Service Learning Team was created to support the local farming community by developing powerful yet affordable precision agriculture solutions for small scale farmers. This collaborative effort with the University of California Cooperative Extension Office (UCCE) will help local growers understand and use aerial vehicles to improve crop production. The first project for the team is to use aerial photography, and photo analysis software to detect varying degrees of leaf scorching in grape vines. To fully exploit the diverse talent within our group we have divided into two teams focusing on imaging and vehicle platform. The imaging sub-team is currently conducting research and producing prototypes of image analysis software which will detect, highlight, and calculate the percentage of crop affected by leaf scorching. The Platform sub-team is tasked with deciding on, purchasing, and setting up a platform that fits the needs of the project and the team’s long-term goals. At the end of the first iteration of this project the team will have a system capable of analyzing an area specified by the user for the visual indicators of leaf scorching.

Community Partner

The official community partner of the UAV team is the UCCE, which will be providing feedback and insight on the progress of the UAV team. The UCCE falls in line with the projects work by helping farmers develop more-efficient growing methods, solving pest management problems and developing crops and irrigation methods that use less water [1]. The team’s point of contact with the UCCE is Larry Burrow, an agriculture field technician whose experience and knowledge will help the UAV team build their projects to have the most impact on local farmers.

Mission Statement

In the midst of the rapidly growing UAV industry current agriculture systems are catered for large scale production systems which result in aerial systems averaging tens of thousands of dollars. In order to provide local farmers with the opportunity to make use of the emerging UAV technology the team will create their projects with a tight budget, and ease of use in mind. The UAV team plans on producing affordable crop management solutions through the use of open-source software and low cost UAV’s facilitated by the continued support of UCCE, MESA Lab, and the Merced farming community.


The UCCE is set as the prominent stakeholder of this project, however the project is being designed to have a large impact on those local farmers who associate themselves with the UCCE. These stakeholders will be reached through connections which the UCCE has established with the local farming community. Other stakeholders in mind include the University of California at Merced, MESA Lab, the Engineering Service Learning program, and with time the extended central valley farming community.

[1] "About Cooperative Extension." Merced County Cooperative Extension. Accessed November 6, 2014.


Project Outline and Objectives

This project is motivated by the opportunity to take part in the research of UAV applications in the Agriculture industry. We will produce a powerful yet inexpensive crop management aid for local farmers to utilize. With the aid of an autonomous UAV local farmers will spend less time and resources physically checking the health of their crops and will have time to spend on more pressing matters.  Our project goal is to provide new and alternative methods to help local farmers minimize water, fertilizer, and pesticide consumption, decrease the number of hours spent in the field, all while maximizing crop yield. Moreover we hope to encourage sustainable farming, and provide an economic boost to the Merced area by helping local growers increase their profits.


The expected completion date for this project is Spring 2016. At that point the project will have an unmanned aerial system (UAS) which will: autonomously fly over a vineyard area mapped by the user, capture images of the selected area, and detect spots within that area where leaf scorching might be a problem. The completed deliverables for this project include both a working UAS and a manual that will thoroughly explain the process of building and operating the UAV.