A new robot capable of autonomously removing invasive weeds has been developed by a team of researchers at VVT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd.

According to its developers, the robot has been specifically designed to autonomously remove an invasive weed known as Rumex longifolius, or longleaf dock, which is rich in oxalates, compounds that can be poisonous to some livestock.

Source: Kotaniemi et al.Source: Kotaniemi et al.

To target the Rumex weed in open pasture fields, the new mobile weeding robot features GNSS navigation, 3D computer vision for weed detection and a robotic arm with a mechanical weeding tool.

Specifically, it is designed to mechanically remove Rumex weeds when they are still seedlings while also destroying their roots without the use of herbicides.

To accomplish this, the team used a multi-layered control approach, dividing weed removal tasks into three sets of actions — navigating the robot toward a weed, detecting the weed and then removing it.

"The goal for weed removal is given as a weeding mission, which is set by a weed map of weed locations in the pasture field. The mission consists of tasks for moving the platform, detecting weeds, and performing the weeding action for all the weeds in sequence listed in the weed map. Each task is composed in a fixed manner of primitive actions like robot arm motions, image acquisition, and navigation actions," the researchers explained.

Tested in real-world environments, the weeding robot effectively and reliably removed weeds, the researchers reported.

An article detailing the robot, “A Weeding Robot for Seedling Removal,” appears in the journal arXiv.

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