Raingun robot can target water better
A ROBOTIC unit which can improve the in-field performance of rainguns has been successfully tested and is now ready for commercial production.
Developed at the Institute of Agritechnology at Cranfield University, it is capable of targeting water to where it is needed and of varying application rates to meet need.
"We have fitted two small motors to the head to control its side to side movement and its up and down trajectory," says Simon Blackmore who co-ordinates the activities of the Institutes Centre for Precision Farming.
"This allows it to accurately get water into field corners, up to hedge lines but not beyond, and up to invisible soil change boundaries. By controlling the timing it is possible to vary application rates within the field."
With improved accuracy of spread it is now feasible to use rainguns for chemigation, he adds. A pump fitted beneath the new unit can inject liquid fertiliser or pesticides into the water jet and the volume output can be automatically adjusted to suit chemical and crop needs.
"We have also designed in a feature to correct the main cause of variable spread pattern from a raingun – wind deflection. By fitting a wind vane and anemometer we have been able to match the flow pressure to suit prevailing conditions. The machine reacts within a split second to a chance in wind speed and direction and makes the necessary adjustment."
The prototype robot unit was developed two years ago. The design has since been completely reworked and a small-scale mark two version built. This has come through tests well and is ready for scaling up into commercial production, says Dr Blackmore.