AgBots: Agricultural Robots Take The Field

In one memorable scene from the original Star Wars movie, Luke Skywalker's Uncle Owen is bargaining for agricultural robots with Jawas. Agriculture has been slow to adopt to robotic technology; however, some new developments are on the horizon.

(From Demeter - National Robotics Engineering Consortium)

For example, the Demeter automated harvester provides the following functionality:

  • A "cruise-control" feature, which allows the operator to give control over to the harvester itself for short periods
  • A "drone" feature, which allows one operator to remotely control several harvesters at once
The final step, providing fully autonomous operation, is currently under development. The Demeter project uses off-the-shelf technologies to provide an average guidance accuracy of +/- 3 centimeters.

At the other end of the size spectrum, University of Illinois agricultural engineers are working on robots ("ag robots") small enough to walk in the rows between plants, scouting for weeds and insects, and taking soil tests. These small (approximately one foot long) robots could do the work now tediously done with human-piloted tractors.

"Who needs 500 horsepower to go through the field when you might as well put a few robots out there that communicate with each other like an army of ants, working the entire field and collecting data?"
(Tony Grift, UI agricultural engineer)

Some of the current approaches:

  • "Ag Ant", an inexpensive foot-long bot that works cooperatively
  • Robots using laser guidance systems to maintain a straight path
  • Robots that use ultrasonic sensors that weave from plant to plant

This approach could dispense with many current practices in agriculture, in which entire fields are sprayed with pesticides or other agents. Instead, small robots could administer small doses at the point where they are needed.

Science fiction buffs remember R2D2 and C3PO, of course; but although these robots were purchased for agricultural use, that was not their primary function (as C3PO might put it). The robot gardening crab from William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer is a good example of an elegantly functional "ag robot."

See Demeter and University of Illinois creates robot farmers for more information. Watch a short video of Demeter harvesting here.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/6/2004)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Agriculture ")

Once A Jolly Swagbot Camped By A Billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree.

Rowbot Small Autonomous Farm Robot
'...The tiny red glints of self-guided tractors.' - Larry Niven, 1966.

Vertical Farms? Still Waiting, But Concepts Abound
'Stacked up to the sky...' - Pohl and Kornbluth, 1951.

Ladybird Agricultural Robot Is Solar-Powered
'A robot gardener worked over the same patch of grass again and again...'- Philip K Dick, 1955.



Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.






Current News

Untethered Drone Gets Wireless Power
'We'll use my 'broomstick'.'

ESA Plans Akon Projectile To Europa ala Jules Verne
'... might [it] not be possible to project a shot up to the moon?'

Transparent OLED TV By Panasonic
It's the look of things to come.

Shape-Memory Metal Transforms Millions Of Times
'Annealed in any shape for a time, and codified, the structure of that shape is retained down to the molecules.'

Advertising Drones Hover Over Traffic In Mexico
'Blurbflies are allowd to travel the streets, buzzing their adverts alive and direct...'

How Can Amazon Patent A Voice-Controlled Drone?
''Tight mid-shot...' he told it.'

'North Sense' Wearable Piercing From Cyborg Nest
'The fingers opened from the many-scaled stellarimeter grafted onto his palm.'

proCover Smart Sock Prosthetic Limb Enhancement
'Series of chemelectric afferent nerve-analogues, which permitted it to gauge to an ounce...'

Robots And AIs Will Replace Humans At 7 Percent Of U.S. Jobs
'And Mike took on endless new jobs.'

Human Doctors Still Better Than Computers
'Nowadays surgery was normally done by autodocs...'

FEDOR Humanoid Robot To Join Russians In Space
Am enjoying view of Russian robot.

BMW Self-Balancing Motorcycle - Never Put Feet On Road
'He had never ridden any motorized device that lacked onboard steering and balance systems...'

MicroTug Is A Micro Robot Beast
'And it had been dragging something...'

Linear Elastic Actuator in Parallel (LEAP) - It's A Hopping Robot
'...Probably the most grotesque forms of transportation ever invented.'

Smart Glove Controls 3D Printed Robotic Arm (Waldo!)
'Waldo flexed and extended his fingers gently; the... waldoes... followed in exact, simultaneous parallelism.'

Wearables For Animals Totally A Thing
'Twin deformities on either side of his skull had been engineered to house sensor units.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise | - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.