The European GreenPatrol Project continues to make progress in its plans of developing an autonomous robot that optimises integrated pest control in greenhouses. After reviewing the design of all the subsystems incorporated into the device, the consortium leading the CTC Technology Centre managed to solve the issue of the precise location in absolute coordinates of this robotic solution. This means that it is now possible to know its position with a margin of error of under 20 centimetres inside the greenhouse.
María Campo-Cossío, the coordinator of the Navigation and Robotics area of CTC, presented the latest advances of the research during the European Space Week 2018, held in Marseille not so long ago. The researcher explained how –based on this global position solution and the use of other sensors, such as 2D and 3D lasers– the robot is capable of generating maps of the environment and estimating its position in them as it travels through the corridors of the greenhouse.
The precise location capability in an indoor environment through a satellite positioning system was one of the most critical aspects of the project. Inside the greenhouses, the quality of the GNSS signal becomes deteriorated by the metal structure and by the plants themselves, which can reach 2 metres in height and, in many cases, can even block the visibility of a large number of satellites. The GreenPatrol Project team has overcome this situation by using the innovative signal characteristics of the Galileo system and Precise Point Positioning (PPP) algorithms.
The next milestone in the research is to integrate the positioning solution with the vision subsystem. The robot should be able to navigate autonomously and inspect the plants continuously, in its pursuit of detecting any of the most common pests in tomato or pepper crops, for instance. This will facilitate the early detection of potential threats, thereby minimising the use of pesticides and the loss of crops.
The GreenPatrol Project is linked to the H2020 Framework Programme, which has a 2.4-million-euro budget from the European GNSS Agency, or GSA, through the European H2020 Innovation and Research Programme under Grant Agreement 776324.
The CTC Technology Centre coordinates this research in which Tekniker Foundation, Inkoa Sistemas SL, the Czech Mendelova Univerzita V Brne University, the English company Nottingham Scientific Ltd and the Dutch company Aerovision Bv. also participate.
The project, due for completion on 30 April 2020, also includes a validation phase in which the prototype will be tested in a real environment. The TRL7 or level of maturity of development sufficient to eliminate engineering and manufacturing risks is expected to be reached this way.