Robotic Tractor and Sprayer Technology Coming

Kurt LawtonPrecision Ag in the News, Research, University

Spraying orchards is a messy but necessary job. And if Cornell researchers succeed, a driverless tractor and sprayer could simplify the task.

This fruit tree sprayer, fitted with sensors to determine location and height of trees, is part of a $3.9 million USDA-funded project at Cornell–in collaboration with the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon University. The objective is to develop, test and evaluate a fleet of autonomous tractors designed for precision agriculture applications–and John Deere is delivering four tractors for testing at Southern Gardens Citrus in Florida.

Goals for the project include developing tree-level precision agriculture applications that leverage, at very low cost, autonomous mobile platforms and supporting infrastructure; reducing the cost for wide-scale adoption; and soliciting feedback from growers, regulators and technology suppliers. The researchers will also study such questions as how disease detection, yield estimation and precision spraying can be most effectively deployed from the mobile platform; how many platforms one operator can safely monitor and what the installation, setup and support issues are associated with the system.

Stay turned to as we explore more robotics work, being undertaken at John Deere, with an eye toward the future of automation.