Mechanical & Materials Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version

Summer 8-2016


Higgins, J.K. Design, Testing and Evaluation of Robotic Mechanisms and Systems for Environmental Monitoring and Interaction (2016).


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfilment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, Under the Supervision of Carrick Detweiler and Carl Nelson. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2016.

Copyright 2016 James Higgins


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have significantly lowered the cost of remote aerial data collection. The next generation of UAVs, however, will transform the way that scientists and practitioners interact with the environment. In this thesis, we address the challenges of flying low over water to collect water samples and temperature data. We also develop a system that allows UAVs to ignite prescribed fires. Specifically, this thesis contributes a new peristaltic pump designed for use on a UAV for collecting water samples from up to 3m depth and capable of pumping over 6m above the water. Next, temperature sensors and their deployment on UAVs, which have successfully created a 3D thermal structure map of a lake, contributes to mobile sensors. A sub-surface sampler, the “Waterbug” which can sample from 10m deep and vary buoyancy for longer in-situ analysis contributes to robotics and mobile sensors. Finally, we designed and built an Unmanned Aerial System for Fire Fighting (UAS-FF), which successfully ignited over 150 acres of prescribed fire during two field tests and is the first autonomous robot system for this application.

Advisers: Carrick Detweiler and Carl Nelson