The robot drives along the orchard rows autonomously, gathering laser and camera data while passing the trees. Each tree can be automatically identified, and information such as flower and fruit counts is produced. The information can be stored in a database, compared through the season and from one year to the next, mapped and displayed visually.
We exercise the whole system for the first time, including translation, rotation and combined manoeuvres, including autonomous row alignment and following.
We have designed and built this robot as a new research platform to support Australia's vegetable industry. The omnidirectional wheel base allows traversal over most existing farm configurations, treading much more lightly over where existing tractor wheels currently run. In addition to the low weight of the vehicle, the ability to turn each wheel allows precision guidance and manoeuvrability, while minimising damage to the soil. In the undercarriage, the Ladybird carries a variety of optical sensors, including stereo and hyperspectral cameras, and the versatile robot arm enables development in a wide variety of applications, including spraying, weeding, thinning and of course to support harvesting research. We are looking forward to to our first tests on vegetable farm in the coming weeks.
We exhibited a selection of our robots at CeBIT, with an emphasis on the future of agriculture.