Herbicide GUSS autonomously – and judiciously – sprays orchards
If fruit is going to be grown using herbicides – which is still largely the case – then the fewer of the chemicals that are used, the better. The Herbicide GUSS autonomous robotic spray vehicle was designed with just such concerns in mind.
Manufactured by California-based startup GUSS Automation (GUSS standing for Global Unmanned Spray System), the sprayer looks a bit like something that might someday carry astronauts across the Martian landscape.
The four-wheel-drive diesel-powered vehicle makes its way up and down the rows of trees in orchards, selectively applying herbicide from an onboard 600-gallon (2,271-l) stainless steel tank via adjustable-height/width spray booms as it does so.
Herbicide GUSS is guided by GPS, LiDAR and an optical camera, combined with a preprogrammed computer map of the orchard. This setup allows the vehicle to know where it is within the orchard, while also avoiding obstacles and staying between rows. When it reaches the end of each row, its four-wheel-steering system helps it make a tight turn to head down the next one.
The vehicle's sensors also allow it to spot individual weeds between rows and between trees, so it can apply herbicide only where necessary. As a result, not only does less herbicide enter the environment, but farmers also save money by not having to buy as much of the chemicals as they would otherwise.
And while Herbicide GUSS is autonomous, a human operator still monitors its progress via a dashboard on their laptop – in fact, one person can simultaneously track up to eight separate cellular-network-connected vehicles in this fashion. If a problem is detected, a dashboard alert shows the location of the sprayer in question.
When the operator arrives at that spot, they wear a special vest that wirelessly communicates with the vehicle, keeping it from moving or spraying. That said, Herbicide GUSS can also be remotely controlled in real time, which is helpful for tasks such as loading it onto flatbed trucks or hangaring it when not in use.
Herbicide GUSS is available both as a service and for purchase. Prospective clients can book a demo via the company website.
The vehicle can be seen in action, in the following video.
Source: GUSS Automation