Potential of cable-suspended parallel robotics for site specific treatment in precision horticulture
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The industrial implementation of automation technologies influences significantly central aspects of several industrial sectors and the impact will become even stronger in the future. In our planned research project we aim to transfer promising technological approaches from industrial automation to other sectors outside of closed production halls. The following objectives regarding automation in precision horticulture will be addressed: (i) studying opportunities of developing cable-suspended parallel robotic technology into the outdoor sector, especially horticultural applications in an alpine region that has not been done exhaustively yet, (ii) developing new automation solutions for site-specific farming applications in accordance to three-dimensional approaches on plant level instead of conventional approaches on zone management and (iii) developing a multi-operational solution able to address a large number of processes for multiple crops. We want to transfer knowledge from applied industrial robotics to precision horticulture, a field of application which is characterized by a high degree of manually executed tasks. The technology of cable-suspended parallel robots seems to have a high potential for this aim, i.e. to solve typical problems of automation in precision agriculture especially regarding the application in alpine regions. In this context the advantage of independency from terrain conditions and high stability towards environmental influences have to be mentioned in first place. The ratio between the payload and the total weight of mobile platforms realized with this technology results in high efficient solutions with low energy consumption in comparison to alternative robotic systems. After identification of adequate use cases for application of the robot technology in the orchard we will design a demonstrator starting from detailed requirements analysis, concept development and realization of a prototype. Comprehensive test runs at the prototypical demonstrator are envisaged on a subarea of a fruit orchard or a comparable test environment. Important aspect for the evaluation is the natural variability of crop the system has to deal with later on and the outdoor influences the system will be developed for.