Indian robot climbs trees to harvest coconuts
As the population increasingly moves towards tech jobs, there's now a shortage of coconut harvesters in India. That's why scientists there have built a tree-climbing coconut-harvesting robot, that could perhaps someday take up the slack.
The prototype device was created by a team at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University, led by Asst. Prof. Rajesh Kannan Megalingam. Known as Amaran, it's currently in its sixth incarnation, and has been in development for three years.
In a 15-minute process, users start by manually assembling the robot's ring-shaped body around the base of a coconut tree. Utilizing its eight inward-facing omnidirectional rubber wheels, Amaran then makes its way up to the top.
A user wirelessly controls it from the ground, utilizing either a joystick unit or a smartphone app to move it up and down, and to rotate it around the trunk.
Once the robot has reached the coconuts, its arm is extended and positioned at the base of a bunch of ripe coconuts. Utilizing a circular saw blade on the end of the arm, Amaran then cuts through that base, allowing the coconuts to fall to the ground.
In field tests conducted at a coconut farm, the robot successfully climbed trees up to 15.2 m (49.9 ft) in height, with trunk inclinations of up to 30 degrees. Additionally, while human coconut harvesters were found to work faster, Amaran could work for longer, potentially making up the difference.
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics.
The robot can be seen in use, in the video below.