State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project Id: 2010NE209B
Title: Wireless Underground Sensor Networks for Irrigation Management
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2010
End Date: 2/29/2011
Congressional District: First District
Focus Categories: Irrigation, Methods, Agriculture
Keywords: Wireless underground sensor networks, irrigation management, center-pivot systems, decision support tool.
Principal Investigator: Vuran, Mehmet Can
Federal Funds: $ 20,000
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 43,634
Abstract: The improvements in embedded system design and low-power wireless communication techniques have made wireless sensor networks an attractive tool for many application areas. In this proposal, the development of wireless underground sensor networks (WUSNs), which carry information through soil, is investigated for autonomous irrigation management. More specifically, the integration of underground networking techniques with center pivot systems is considered, where WUSNs promise significant reduction in water usage for irrigation. This impact is important considering the fact that irrigation constitutes nearly 70% of all water usage in the world. The objectives of this project are to (1) design and implement a cross-layer communication module for environment-aware underground networking in agricultural fields, (2) Implement an irrigation management testbed, where WUSNs will be integrated with a center pivot system to realize autonomous irrigation management through real-time soil moisture information, and (3) Develop hands-on educational tools and provide experiences in WUSNs. Accordingly, the project is anticipated to result in a complete empirical characterization of the underground communication and an environment-aware communication protocol. Second, the proposed research will result in a comprehensive decision support tool and the associated networking components for real-time soil information delivery and automated irrigation management with a center pivot system. The tools provided by the project can be integrated into any agricultural equipment that requires information from the soil in the future.

Despite the potential merits of WUSNs such as concealment, real-time data delivery, and coverage density; preliminary field experiments and analysis show that the communication performance in underground settings is significantly affected by the variations in soil conditions. Moreover, underground sensor nodes has been integrated with an aboveground device attached to a center-pivot system to provide a proof-of-concept for the project. The insights from these analyses will be exploited to develop cross-layer communication platforms that adopt to the environment and implement an autonomous irrigation management system using center-pivot systems. To this end, the PI has partnered with biological scientists to develop an agricultural underground sensor network testbed to evaluate the protocols developed as a result of this research and demonstrate the effectiveness of the environment-aware cross-layer design techniques.

The proposed work is expected to have a significant impact on research in wireless underground sensor networks and education tools for teaching findings to students and farmers as well as an economical impact on agriculture. The realization of WUSN techniques has the potential to transform local agriculture industry, which is one of the main driving forces of economy in Nebraska. This will facilitate broader application of sensor networks in agricultural solutions. The proposed activities will further student education, both within the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and outside including junior high and high school education. One graduate student working toward Ph.D. degree will be supported using the student support from the project, and the results from the proposed work will be aggressively published in premier conferences and journals. Moreover, the testbed and the simulation platforms will be used in class projects as educational tools to provide insight and deep understanding of underground networking.

Progress/Completion Report, 2010, PDF

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