A Satellite-Controlled Robot That Hoes Weeds

Prof Egon Füglein

In organic farming and in water protection areas, it is illegal to use herbicides to deal with weeds. To keep weeds at bay in these areas, root crops need to be cultivated by hand – a cost-intensive process. It comes as no surprise that such monotonous, strenuous, time-consuming manual activities are not popular. As yet, no machine capable of carrying out this work automatically is available on the market.

One problem faced when developing a machine of this type is that it must be able to detect or “know” where each cultivated plant is located to ensure that it is not confused with a weed and inadvertently removed.

Previous attempts at overcoming this problem by using image recognition systems, infrared cameras or other sensors to distinguish weeds from cultivated plants have not met with success. In the current project, which is sponsored by the Bavarian High-Tech Initiative, each seed is individually planted and its position is determined and stored to an accuracy of approximately 1 cm using satellite navigation technology.

This means that after sowing, the positions of all the plants in a field are known, making it possible to calculate those areas in which hoeing can take place without the risk of damaging the cultivated plant. Since the position of the robot is regulated, it can move to these areas after the weeds have sprouted and successfully carry out the hoeing.

It is also possible to carry out activities such as watering, fertilising or spraying in strictly limited areas. After the European satellite navigation system GALILEO has been introduced, we can expect to see increased accuracy and reliability as well as the advent of new potential applications for the robot.

Contact:
STZ Entwicklung Prüf- und Messtechnik
Prof Dr Egon Füglein
Klosterstraße 5
97222 Maidbronn
egon.fueglein@gmx.de