The robot uses GPS for navigation, and there are two small cameras mounted on a frame on top of the machine to give the robot depth perception, just like a human, said Lei Tian, agricultural engineer at the U of I. "If he sees a weed, he can actually tell how far away it is."
An on-board computer offers access to information that provides the morphological features of plants, to help the robot determine just what is and isn't a weed. Once a weed is identified, a robotic arm attached to the front of the machine engages a device the researcher calls "a custom-designed end effector."
There are two layers to the device, according to Tian. One layer cuts the weed, while the second layer applies herbicide to the cut weed.
"This type of application is extremely effective," said Tian, "because it applies herbicide directly to the plant, instead of broadcasting uniform rates across a field."
With this level of precision, Tian says the system has clear environmental benefits. In addition to cutting herbicide use, chemicals do not drift off-target when placed directly on the plants.
The original inspiration for this robot came several years ago, when Tian and two graduate students were working on remote sensing systems for a CFAR (Council on Food and Agricultural Research) project.
"We were collecting field data from satellite imagery, such as soil moisture and plant conditions, but we needed to have ground reference data to validate that information," said Tian.
"But that kind of data is tedious to collect," he continued, "and it's very hot work. The grad students who collected this information stayed in the field most of the day, and one of them was fainting from the heat."
At the time, Tian was working on a robot that could go into the field and continuously collect data, but the battery that powered the system required charging about every two hours.
"So I thought, what if we had a system that could collect data, but could also convert the heat of the sun into an energy source?" said Tian. "We could replace the grad student worker with this robotic system."
That system evolved into today's model, and two different grad students worked with Tian to present a paper on the robot at the Annual International Meeting of Agricultural and Biological Engineers this July in Portland, Oregon.
Hong Young Jeon, a PhD candidate in agricultural and biological engineering, and Nathanael Gingrich, a master's student, have worked steadily on the system design that cuts the weed and applies herbicide. They have also mounted the curved solar panel that powers the robot.
"We custom-built a shelf that holds the solar panel," said Gingrich. "It also protects the machine from weather and gives it shade for its vision system."
Although the robot is equipped with ultrasonic sensors that go all the way around the machine, "we're going to try and use only the camera vision for navigation," said Jeon, "which makes it a lot more difficult."
The robot stands a little more than two feet tall, is 28 inches wide and almost five feet long. He can travel about three miles per hour and moves on wheels, although the researchers have treads they can put on him as well, to give him more grip.
At the current stage, the robot is used to combat weed infestation, but in the future, Gingrich and Jeon hope to place different sensors and cameras on the robotic arm that would be used to judge soil properties or plant conditions.
"It has a full-blown Windows computer with an 80-gigabyte hard drive and a wireless connection to the Internet," said Gingrich, "so the amount of information we can collect is virtually unlimited."
Leanne Lucas | EurekAlert!
Researchers discover natural product that could lead to new class of commercial herbicide
16.07.2018 | UCLA Samueli School of Engineering
Advance warning system via cell phone app: Avoiding extreme weather damage in agriculture
12.07.2018 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF) e.V.
A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.
The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
20.07.2018 | Information Technology
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences