Solar powered autonomous weeder

Swiss firm ecoRobotix is close to launching an autonomous solar-powered device that identifies weeds and zaps them with jets of herbicide from two mechanically-operated arms.

by Steven Vale

6 Aug 2018

Claimed to use up to 20 times less herbicide than traditional full field spraying, the autonomous vehicle has a working width of 2.0m and navigates using a combination of sensors and GPS. Weeds are detected by the front mounted camera and the vehicle can work in crops with a maximum height of 25cm.

Travelling at an average speed of 0.4m/second, each of the two robotic arms on the 130kg vehicle can make up to 4,000 movements an hour. Claimed to seek and destroy in excess of 95% of crop weeds both in and outside crop rows spaced from 35 to 70cm, outputs are around 3ha/day and the two 15-litre chemical tanks are said to provide plenty of capacity for a full 12 hours of operation.

The solar panels generate electricity to power the electric wheel motors and the robotic weeder is controlled remotely from a mobile device. With vital statistics of 2.2m-wide x 1.7m long x 1.3m high (camera folded), the company has developed a frame to allow the autonomous unit to be transported behind a tractor.

Founded in 2011, after securing funding in 2013 the Swiss company developed a prototype of the ecoRobotix in 2014. Improved the following year, the first batch of pilot machines were in the field in 2016. Providing everything goes to plan then the weeding robot could go on sale towards the end of this year. Prices have not yet to be released.