Master of Science in Biological and Agricultural Engineering (MSBAE)
Biological and Agricultural Engineering
Robotics is a rapidly growing technology and robots have pervaded into most of the industries. Robotics and automation are designed to remove the human factor from the labor intensive and monotonous work and thereby decrease the associated costs. The application of robotics to agriculture is fairly recent. Robotic applications in agriculture vary from autonomous row-guidance tractors to fruit picking robots. Similarly, soil testing and soil sampling is one area in agriculture where automation of tasks and the employment of an autonomous robot would be of great use to consultants and farmers employing site specific farming techniques. Soil testing is an important part of farming used to determine the average nutrient status in a field and to obtain a measure of nutrient availability in the field. Fertilizers and other nutrients are applied to the fields based on different soil tests. Site specific farming is greatly dependent on soil testing and can result in increased yield, reduced cost and reduced water pollution. Soil testing requires a lot of soil samples and soil sampling is a time consuming, laborious process and expensive process. Most of the consultants employing site specific techniques use ATVs to get around large fields when sampling. The development of an autonomous guidance system for an ATV to perform soil sampling would be greatly beneficial to them. Labor costs would be significantly reduced and the operators would be subjected to fewer environmental elements. The use of ATVs ensures that no extra capital is needed to buy a vehicle. The use of a small vehicle like an ATV also causes less soil compaction. A WAAS enabled Differential GPS with accuracies to within 9.84 feet was used as the position sensor. Pocket PCs are more portable than a laptop computer and are more suitable for farm conditions. Shape files were used to provide the sampling points as input to the guidance program. A guidance program was made to operate on a PDA and provide guidance instructions. A microprocessor was programmed to read the guidance instructions and actuate the different components like throttle and steering. Tests were conducted to test the accuracy and consistency of the system. The offsets of each stop point from the test point were documented and analyzed. The results indicated that the system was as accurate as the GPS used for guidance. They also indicated that a guidance system can be realized with the use of very few components and an accuracy needed for soil sampling can be achieved. Avoidance routines for obstacles within the field were indicated as future developments.
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Nistala, Goutam Jagannadha, "Development of an inexpensive guidance system for agricultural purposes" (2006). LSU Master's Theses. 12.
Randy R. Price