Mini-helicopters in greenhouses: Research project nominated for Houska Prize

Greenhouses are currently not up to date with the latest technology. In order to increase food production there, mini-helicopters could be used in the future.  Their task will be to record the condition of the plants 24 hours a day, without GPS and without human assistance.  A team of researchers at the University of Klagenfurt is developing the technological foundations for deploying these “flying helpers”. Their project has been nominated for the Houska Prize 2024.

The mini-helicopters are designed to monitor the condition of the plants in greenhouses, detect diseases, identify the need for fertiliser and predict harvests. To do this, they need to use innovative technologies that have only recently emerged. “We aim to maximise their flight time, so we have to make them as light as possible. To ensure their safe operation, we also need to use various  sensors for localisation. Until now, processing such large volumes of sensor data involved considerable computing resources and was therefore energy-intensive,” says Christian Brommer, who has developed a new algorithm for this purpose as a member of the team led by Professor Stephan Weiss, head of the Control of Networked Systems research group at the University of Klagenfurt.

The result is unrivalled computing efficiency, which means that a correspondingly large number of sensors can be used for redundant and therefore safe navigation. The technology, which has already been patented, provides the basis for the Avemoy SpinOff project in the field of smart/precision agriculture, as Professor Weiss explains: “We plan to use mini-helicopters fitted with high-resolution cameras to analyse the condition of plants in greenhouses right down to the fruit. To do this, we create a digital twin that can be used to derive appropriate measures. As things stand, greenhouses can only determine two per cent of this information by hand.” The research team is currently working on the implementation of this technology in collaboration with pilot customers.

The project has been nominated for the 2024 Houska Prize as one of five projects in the “University Research” category. Overall, 73 proposals were submitted. The award ceremony will take place on 25 April 2024. The Houska Prize was established by the B&C Private Foundation in 2005 to improve the financial foundation for innovation and research in Austria and to express appreciation for the outstanding research work being carried out here. With a total endowment of 750,000 euros, the Houska Prize is Austria’s largest private prize dedicated to applied research.

The photos can be used for reporting on the project (photographer: Florian Gunzer, photographed at


Stephan Weiss, Christian Brommer und Alexander Hardt-Stremayr

Stephan Weiss, Christian Brommer and Alexander Hardt-Stremayr