Suk Yung (Mike) Lee, 2016, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

The goal of the Rapid Forest Triage project, the focus of my summer internship, was to survey a forest autonomously with a quadcopter. Using stereo vision, the quadcopter would traverse the forest while noting the location and diameters of trees to estimate a forest’s biomass. The quadcopter would also take microclimate data measurements with an onboard sensing unit. Using the microclimate and tree data, I created intra-forest ecology maps in MATLAB. Test data sets of forests were also created with manual surveys. We put both sets of data on an interactive website that incorporated a Google Earth embed of surveyed forests, along with corresponding survey data, tree data, and ecology maps. I learned many different technical skills, such as working with the robotics operating framework ROS, the languages of C++, MATLAB, HTML, jQuery, and D3. On a broader level, I really enjoyed using robotics to directly interact with nature. This summer experience verified my love of robotics and fieldwork; I am now considering working specifically on robotics with applications in the natural world. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to work over the summer than JPL, where the talks, the employees, and the current missions redefine what it means to dream big.