Solar powered robots in agriculture

The Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR), based at The University of Sydney undertakes research into robotic systems for agriculture. They have developed a number of intelligent machines that monitor crops in order to:

  • determine crop health 
  • selectively water and feed the crops
  • selectively administer pesticides and herbicides 
  • selectively harvest produce

Several of their prototypes rely on solar and battery hybrid systems to power the robots that traverse large fields collecting and processing data.

The Ladybird robot, so named because it is red with the black ‘spots’ of the solar cells, has sensing systems to map a vegetable farm, detect classify and target individual weeds and undertakes targeted spot spraying.

The University of Sydney's solar-powered Ladybird robot on a beetroot farm in Cowra, NSW.

The University of Sydney's solar-powered Ladybird robot on a beetroot farm in Cowra, NSW.

RIPPA (TM) (Robot for Intelligent Perception and Precision Application) is a next generation robot which also detects and target-sprats individual weeds, is designed to run 24-hours a day using the hybrid solar and battery technology.

The Director of Research and Innovation at ACFR, Professor Salah Sukkarieh is a fellow of ATSE.