The Mission of the laboratory

The mission of ILARS is to conduct applied research, work with industry and government agencies to develop "real world" precision and site-specific tools for the agriculture and natural resources management. Research conducted by the laboratory ranges from "on-farm" production uses to large-scale agribusiness uses such as regional yield estimations. The laboratory is staffed with experts in the fields of crop science, agriculture engineering, extension, agriculture economics, geographic information systems, and remote sensing.


The era of commercial remote sensing for agriculture has finally arrived. Since the early days of the government run Landsat Satellite program, remote sensing experts have touted the benefits of remote sensing for crop production management. Unfortunately, the technology of these early earth-observing satellites was limited and the sensing system was not validated for agriculture use. Detecting exact locations of potential stresses within a field were nearly impossible. Quite frequently, the promises of useful applications of remote sensing to commercial agriculture were never kept. To meet these challenges the University of Illinois' College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences is proposing to create the Illinois Laboratory for Agricultural Remote Sensing (ILARS).

The University of Illinois is well positioned to establish itself as a leader in the field of applied agricultural remote sensing. Many of the components necessary to achieve this goal are resident at the University and its surrounding community. Many of our nation's top agriculture researchers and extension specialist have appointments with the University of Illinois' specializing in the fields of crop sciences, agricultural engineering, biotechnology, precision farming, and information systems. Additionally, ACES is aligning itself with the University's National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) to collaborate on such projects as using dynamic models to monitor agricultural runoff and using data mining and neural network technology to process high spatial and spectral remotely sensed data.

From an industry perspective several major agribusinesses have established research plots in and around the Champaign/Urbana area. These companies should be viewed as potential industry partners that could benefit from the use of remote sensing technology and would sponsor University research through ILARS. Many of these companies already have cooperative agreements and contracts with the University to fund cutting-edge agronomic, biotechnology, and engineering research.

The Function of the Laboratory

The focus of ILARS is toward applied research as opposed to basic research. The function of ILARS should be to engage U.S. agribusinesses in applied remote sensing research, designed to investigate potential business opportunities and to develop new product ideas and application prototypes for these companies. Emphasis should be placed on working with these businesses to facilitate commercializing the technology by focusing university research capabilities on industry requirements.

ILARS can take advantage of the existing relationship between ACES and NASA's Commercial Remote Sensing Program. In 1999, NASA began collaborating with University researchers through the Spectral Visions group that is located an office on the University's South Farms. Their close proximity provides the University with many benefits that include, training for graduate students via internships, access to NASA and commercially available imagery, collaboration with NASA remote sensing experts, etc.

The laboratory should introduce U.S. companies to spatial information and expose them to the most promising advanced remote sensing technologies. This will be accomplished by integrating university research activities with industry requirements to take advantage of advanced remote sensing technologies and applications. Finally the laboratory will expose University students to real-world problem-solving situations through partnership projects with U.S. companies.