This seems to be the week for solar powered farm bot news. A new article over at Vision Systems Design talks about the vision system of a UIUC ag robot and how it can see weeds. The robot is actually a couple of years old but this new story offers more detail on the vision system design that previous stories. UIUC researchers at the Illinois Laboratory for Agricultural Remote Sensing developed this solar powered robot for search-and-destroy missions against weeds. The robot started out as a remote sensing C-FAR project. Lei Tian explains the origins and move to solar power:
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. But that kind of data is tedious to collect 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. 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? We could replace the grad student worker with a robotic system.
Once the robot was in the field, researchers kept improving it and have now added additional capabilities including a two-tiered approach to destroying weeds. The robot first cuts and removes the weed, then precisely applies a small amount of herbicide directly to the weed stump. This approach keep the herbicide on the weed and off the food plants, while at the same time greatly reducing the amounts of herbicide used. There's also some video of the weed robot and other UIUC ag robots in action after the jump.