Robotic Arm Adds Muscle to Tree Pruning
Fruit trees go dormant during the winter and must be pruned so that they’ll bear plenty of high-quality fruit the following summer. However, it can be hard to find someone willing to stand on a ladder all day in the cold and operate a handheld lopper to prune the trees. Enter the Robotic System for Tree Shape Estimation, RoTSE. Another team led by ARS scientists in Kearneysville, WV, investigated the robotic vision system to take over the task from human pruners. As with the smart sprayer, the system takes stock of the tree’s shape and other features—but using multiple images taken from a camera mounted on a robotic arm rather than laser scanning. Algorithms merge the information from the images to calculate such things as branch angle, diameter, and length. These features are used in tree-pruning protocols for deciding which branches to cut. The current RoTSE prototype system rides atop a mobile platform that can be driven through the orchard. The system also is being used to collect information on the shape and other physical attributes of the trees, which is important in breeding new varieties with desirable traits.
Article: Orchard Management Technology