URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Robots were operating on the UIUC south farms on Wednesday as researchers were putting them through their paces.  

Arun — a second-year graduate student — was developing a robot that would work with lesser costing parts to reduce the overall cost of its navigation system.

“Currently it can follow between 2 rows of corn and soybeans autonomously using just a camera so this reduces the cost of navigation significantly because it used to be based on a lidar which cost $1,500,” says Arun. “But because we can do it with just a camera; a camera cost only like $30, so it significantly reduces the cost of the robot. And now I am trying to work more on making the robot turn outside the rows autonomously so you can have a full autonomous system for the corn and soybean field.”

And then the robot will do whatever work it is assigned, such as evaluating the crop or looking for weeds to kill.

Michael Hansen was on a team working with another robot that would plant up to 50 pounds of cover crop seed in standing corn.

“This is an autonomous system that would come it and be able to spread the seeds,” says Hansen.  “Specifically, this was designed for cornfields, but it could be used in a variety of fields. It just goes through earlier in the season and can be traditional used to spread seeds out in the entire cornfield.   There are some advantages to that by doing it earlier in the season: it adds less worry for the farmer at specific times.”

Then there was the fruit picking robot, which is designed to see fruit on a bush and pick it.  And a whole cadre of these will be able to pick a ripe crop if labor is not available to do that.