DroN2O: A Drone-Based System for Measuring Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Agricultural Fields

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Ann Arbor, Michigan
Project Term:
03/31/2021 - 03/30/2024

Technology Description:

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a significant greenhouse gas that, once emitted, has 300 times more heat-trapping capability than CO2 on a 100-year timescale. It also depletes the ozone layer. Michigan Aerospace Corporation proposes to develop an inexpensive system to sense N2O emissions from agricultural fields using laser-based sensors mounted on drones. These sensors include an optical absorption cell, a short-range miniature wind LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging), and a camera for plant health and ground assessment. The measurements from these sensors will be combined and processed with artificial intelligence-enabled software to accurately measure N2O emissions from a given farm field during the entire growing season. The resulting data will provide farmers of bioeconomy feedstock crops with tangible incentives to alter farming practices in ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote climate change mitigation.

Potential Impact:

Reducing the uncertainty of emissions quantification is critical to realizing the revenue potential of carbon management markets.


New technologies will maintain U.S. leadership in sustainable biofuel production and advanced carbon removal and management.


These technologies will help incentivize continued emissions reductions throughout the biofuel and bioeconomy supply chains while enabling new opportunities to leverage agriculture and managed land systems to perform carbon removal, management, and storage to address climate change.


Enabling producers to participate in carbon management markets would complement yield-based revenues with economic incentives for input efficiency, climate change mitigation, and restorative practices.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Steven Singer
Project Contact:
Dr. Will Johnson
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