Orchard Autonomy Pack
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The Orchard Autonomy Pack is a self-contained set of sensors, software and driver electronics that allow devices such as the Drone Harvester to become fully autonomous.
The key to achieving this will be accurate mapping. For a robot to navigate it first needs to know where it is with high accuracy in real time. Accurate mapping will also be essential for building the geo-referenced information systems that will allow high level presentations of data and will support better decisions on farm.
However standard solutions such as GPS perform poorly in tall wooded environments. All flavours of GPS right through to RTK suffer from loss of accuracy when they don’t have a clear view of the horizon - in orchards it is not unusual to see a DGPS system rated for 1m accuracy drift more than 10m and sometimes the signal is lost completely. Manual surveying is not an option as it is far too expensive.
In short there is a real need for an orchard positioning system that is
- Reliable - 100% up time
- Accurate - 10-20cm error
- Real Time - no delays
- Preferably not too expensive
I have been working on this problem for a long time really, as have many others I imagine. Also in common with many others this project uses data streamed from a variety of sources - GPS, Inertial Measurement, Video - and attempts to fuse this data into a accurate real time orchard position with a level of robustness such that it can handle intermittent streams from the data sources when necessary.
In general the project uses low cost hardware and sensors with a goal of a simple plug-in system that can be used with a variety of equipment. It does not use SLAM (simultaneous location and mapping). Rather it requires an initial drive-through of the block after which the system self-updates, this results in an intrinsically structured map that can make it easier to integrate with legacy data.
More information shortly, like everyone else success is just a couple of trials away :-)