Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Search and Destroy Weedkiller Robot

In the future, farmers will look back on old farming techniques and marvel at the wastefullness of dumping tons of chemicals all over the ground. Why didn't they just put the treatments where they are needed?
We have already seen this idea applied to kill bugs. Now it is also used for killing weeds.

Here is an example of a way that robots can be used to target weed killing herbicide on the farm. This robot is solar operated for long days in the field. It uses stereo vision to search out weeds among the crops. When it finds a weed, it reaches out with a special cutter arm and chops it off. Next it sprays the remaining stem with a squirt of herbicide. So there! Nasty weed!

A team of engineers led by Dr. Lei Tian at the University of Illinois came up with the idea of the solar driven robot from other research they were doing. While working on remote sensing of crops they have to walk the rows taking measurements to compare actual readings to remote data.
One day, one of the poor overworked grad students fainted from the heat. Maybe there was a better way than grad student slavery?
Their first robot was okay but the batteries ran out every couple of hours. So the solar panels were added to supply continous power. And the panel shades the cameras for better visual identification.

The robot rolls through he fields at about 3 miles per hour (4.8 kmph) and uses GPS, ultrasonic and vision for navigation. The next version will take soil measurements and check the crops. Like the farmer Scout robot.

U of I Robots Go Solar; New System Could Drastically Reduce Herbicide Use



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