Harper Adams University placed fourth overall in European Field Robot Event
31 October 2015
Eighteen competitors took part from universities across Europe including Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. The UK was represented by Harper Adams University who competed for the second time in this event, this year with their new robot, 'Florence'.
"We are incredibly proud of the students and their achievement in an event that we are relatively new to. They have designed and built a competitive robotic vehicle, on a tight budget, within a short timescale, and achieved very creditable first and second place finishes in the two navigation tasks and fourth overall in only our second year of competing. The team are a great example of the engineering talent at Harper Adams." Says Dr Ianto Guy – Head of Off-Road Vehicle Engineering at Harper Adams.
The competition was split into three tasks, Basic Navigation, Advanced Navigation and Freestyle. For the basic navigation task the vehicles were required to navigate independently through a field between rows of crops and to turn and adjust independently. The advanced test included unexpected obstacles and missing crops. The tasks were performed against the clock and points deducted for any damage to the crops.
"It is incredibly refreshing to see talented new engineers at events like these using their creativity coupled with their newly learned engineering skills to find new and different takes on agricultural automation." says Steve Attwood, Mobile Equipment specialist at Pepperl+Fuchs. "The low risk environment together with highly competitive and enthusiastic teams can yield some surprisingly innovative solutions to real world applications."
One of the more challenging aspects of any agricultural automation is the reliable detection of crops, which nature kindly grows in a variety of non-uniform shapes, sizes and colours – the antithesis of an ideal application for automation. This requires a flexible method of detection and intelligent processing of data to determine, for example, the difference between weeds and crops.
The team from Harper Adams chose the Pepperl+Fuchs R2100 LED array as their primary crop location sensing method. The R2100 array has several advantages over the traditionaly used laser scanner in these applications. Its fixed LED array contains no moving parts making it more robust and lighter than a scanning laser.
The wider LED beams also help average the variable crop height to give a steadier signal requiring less filtering when processing the data. The R2100 also has a significant cost advantage over a laser scanner which allowed the Harper Adams team to spend their limited budget more evenly across the build of Florence and thus compete successfully against teams with substantially larger budgets.
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