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  2. Small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) are rapidly transforming atmospheric research. With the advancement of the development and application of these systems, improving knowledge of best practices for accurate measurement is critical for achieving scientific goals. We present results from an intercomparison of atmospheric measurement data from the Lower Atmospheric Process Studies at Elevation—a Remotely piloted Aircraft Team Experiment (LAPSE-RATE) field campaign. We evaluate a total of 38 individual sUAS with 23 unique sensor and platform configurations using a meteorological tower for reference measurements. We assess precision, bias, and time response of sUAS measurements of temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed, and wind direction. Most sUAS measurements show broad agreement with the reference, particularly temperature and wind speed, with mean value differences of 1.6 ± 2.6 ∘ C and 0.22 ± 0.59 m/s for all sUAS, respectively. sUAS platform and sensor configurations were found to contribute significantly to measurement accuracy. Sensor configurations, which included proper aspiration and radiation shielding of sensors, were found to provide the most accurate thermodynamic measurements (temperature and relative humidity), whereas sonic anemometers on multirotor platforms provided the most accurate wind measurements (horizontal speed and direction). We contribute both a characterization and assessment of sUAS for measuring atmospheric parameters, and identify important challenges and opportunities for improving scientific measurements with sUAS. 
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  3. We study the problem of reducing the amount of communication in decentralized target tracking. We focus on the scenario, where a team of robots is allowed to move on the boundary of the environment. Their goal is to seek a formation so as to best track a target moving in the interior of the environment. The robots are capable of measuring distances to the target. Decentralized control strategies have been proposed in the past, which guarantees that the robots asymptotically converge to the optimal formation. However, existing methods require that the robots exchange information with their neighbors at all time steps. Instead, we focus on decentralized strategies to reduce the amount of communication among robots. We propose a self-triggered communication strategy that decides when a particular robot should seek up-to-date information from its neighbors and when it is safe to operate with possibly outdated information. We prove that this strategy converges asymptotically to the desired formation when the target is stationary. For the case of a mobile target, we use a decentralized Kalman filter with covariance intersection to share the beliefs of neighboring robots. We evaluate all the approaches through simulations and a proof-of-concept experiment. 
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  4. We study two multi-robot assignment problems for multi-target tracking. We consider distributed approaches in order to deal with limited sensing and communication ranges. We seek to simultaneously assign trajectories and targets to the robots. Our focus is on \emph{local} algorithms that achieve performance close to the optimal algorithms with limited communication. We show how to use a local algorithm that guarantees a bounded approximate solution within $\mathcal{O}(h\log{1/\epsilon})$ communication rounds. We compare with a greedy approach that achieves a $2$--approximation in as many rounds as the number of robots. Simulation results show that the local algorithm is an effective solution to the assignment problem. 
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  5. Microorganisms are ubiquitous in freshwater aquatic environments, but little is known about their abundance, diversity, and transport. We designed and deployed a remote-operated water-sampling system onboard an unmanned surface vehicle (USV, a remote-controlled boat) to collect and characterize microbes in a freshwater lake in Virginia, USA. The USV collected water samples simultaneously at 5 and 50 cm below the surface of the water at three separate locations over three days in October, 2016. These samples were plated on a non-selective medium (TSA) and on a medium selective for the genusPseudomonas(KBC) to estimate concentrations of culturable bacteria in the lake. Mean concentrations ranged from 134 to 407 CFU/mL for microbes cultured on TSA, and from 2 to 8 CFU/mL for microbes cultured on KBC. There was a significant difference in the concentration of microbes cultured on KBC across three sampling locations in the lake (P= 0.027), suggesting an uneven distribution ofPseudomonasacross the locations sampled. There was also a significant difference in concentrations of microbes cultured on TSA across the three sampling days (P= 0.038), demonstrating daily fluctuations in concentrations of culturable bacteria. There was no significant difference in concentrations of microbes cultured on TSA (P= 0.707) and KBC (P= 0.641) across the two depths sampled, suggesting microorganisms were well-mixed between 5 and 50 cm below the surface of the water. About 1 percent (7/720) of the colonies recovered across all four sampling missions were ice nucleation active (ice+) at temperatures warmer than −10 °C. Our work extends traditional manned observations of aquatic environments to unmanned systems, and highlights the potential for USVs to understand the distribution and diversity of microbes within and above freshwater aquatic environments.

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