CIMAT project develops multi-purpose field robot

03-11-2021 | |
Photo: CIMAT
Photo: CIMAT

The CIMAT field robot is an autonomous, multifunctional field robot with four-wheel steering.

The CIMAT project combines the forces of 11 Belgian and Dutch partners. These companies and knowledge institutions are jointly exploring the possibilities of an autonomous tool platform with modular tools for various tasks. The basis is a self-propelled, electrically powered robot, which will be optimised during the project period. CIMAT aims to offer manufacturers a prototype which can be further developed into a robot they can make commercially available.

Multi-purpose autonomous platform

The CIMAT robot prototype, which is now ready for its first field trials, is approximately 4m long and has a track width which is adjustable from 1.2 to 1.8 m. It is planned that this autonomous platform will be multi-purpose thanks to multiple tools. Within the project, the platform will be used for mechanical and thermal weed control and to measure soil parameters such as compaction and moisture content.

The robot platform’s sensors and controllers are connected to the cloud. Collected data is stored along with positioning information for real-time evaluation or later processing.

Four-wheel steering

The robot platform has independent steering of the four wheels. There are four electric motors for driving (20 kW total) and four electric motors for steering. As a result, each wheel can drive in any direction. This makes the robot extremely maneuverable. CIMAT says this creates a lot of possibilities and the flexible steering offers great advantages to users.

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Data capture of crop rows

Soon, the project partners will also implement a camera system with accompanying software for data capture of crop rows. This will allow them to drive onto plots next year where sowing took place without GPS. The image information will be used to train an image processing algorithm based on AI to detect crop rows.

Three hydraulic three-point linkages

CIMAT has equipped its robot with three hydraulic three-point linkages: a category 1 hitch at the rear and front, and a category 2 three-point hitch in the middle, for optimal weight disrtibution and stability. Multiple implements can be put to work simultaneously, such as a cradle, a hoe, a spreader, a sprayer or a soil sensor. A double-acting hydraulic connection is also available to transfer hydraulic power to the implements.

Treating weeds thermally

CIMAT is currently developing two implements. Project partner Vanhoucke Engineering is building a hoeing machine and looking at the possibility of treating weeds thermally. The second tool is a soil sensor that determines soil compaction and moisture content, among other things.

Hugo Claver Web editor for Future Farming
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