Harper Adams robot navigates vineyard

Farmers around the world will be able to improve their irrigation efficiency thanks to an autonomous vineyard robot developed at Harper Adams University.

Called Dionysus (the Greek god of wine), it has been created to use thermal imaging sensors to detect moisture levels in grape vines. This data will then be used to inform farmers whether irrigation is required.

Three MEng agricultural engineering students at the university have designed and built the project: James Thomas, Kit Franklin and Chris White.

Mr Thomas, 23, from Devizes, Wiltshire, said: “We had to select an appropriate vehicle to work in vineyards, in this case, a child’s quad bike.

We then designed our own control systems to control steering, throttle and braking.

“We have also designed a series of safety features as when Dionysus is in autonomous mode, it is important that the engine cuts out, should a safety issue arise.”

Mr Franklin, 23, from South Cerney in Cirencester, added: “These systems are linked to a laptop running SAFAR agricultural robotic software, which takes readings from GPS and also a laser scanner on the front of Dionysus.

“This then guides the vehicle on a pre-set path around the vineyard.”

He added: “This project has enabled us to develop our skills in areas such as mechanical engineering, electrical systems engineering and applications engineering.

“As we’ve had to source suitable components from outside suppliers, there has been a lot of contact with professional engineers and industry experts.

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