2012 ~ Present| Section - VPD

GTRI Agricultural Robotics

GOALS: Robotics has the potential to revolutionize inspection and harvesting tasks on commodity farms (corn, soybeans) and high-value specialty farms (fruits, nuts).  This is true from the standpoints of: labor, economics, early disease detection, and crop assessment. Specialty farms stand to benefit the most because their crops presently require a lot of manual labor to tend and to ensure health; many aspects of commodity farms have already been mechanized/automated.  This team will have as its goal leveraging recent advances in robotics to improve agricultural processes. Its emphasis will be on fielding functional devices/systems.

METHODS & TECHNOLOGIES: Physics, material properties, embedded controllers, software programming, computer simulation, CAD, 3D printing, sensors, novel manufacturing, rapid prototyping, biology, horticulture, experiment design, testing & evaluation, commercialization & productization.

RESEARCH/DESIGN ISSUES: A hallmark of agricultural robotics is the need to function in unstructured environments (crop fields, fruit trees, leaf-level foliage). Industrial robots, by contrast, operate within standardized environments and deal with rigid, regularly-shaped objects.  Oddly shaped and deformable biomaterials are challenging to handle and manipulate.  In the case of fruits, the handling should not cause inadvertent damage and be able to distinguish ripeness level. As a first project, the team will research, develop and test a new type of soft robot gripper capable of picking a variety of fruit securely and without damage, after accurately assessing ripeness. The developed gripper will accommodate: blueberries, strawberries, bananas, peaches, and apples.  It must also be low-cost, lightweight, provide tactile feedback, and be self-contained.

The team’s initial project will span 3 years: Year 1: problem definition, research current state of the art, determine approach, preliminary proof of concept, validation of approach’s key technologies; Year 2: design and fabrication of soft robot gripper; Year 3: fabrication of soft robot gripper (continued), testing and evaluation, re-iteration, steps to productization.

MEETING TIME: Thurs, 3:00-3:50

ADVISOR: Ai-Ping Hu (GTRI)

PARTNERS & SPONSORS: GTRI, Harris Corporation

MAJORS, PREPARATION AND INTERESTS: ME, CS, ECE, MSE, Physics, Biology, BME, Industrial Design

CONTACT: Dr. Ai-Ping Hu, (404) 407-8815, ai-ping.hu@gtri.gatech.edu