Scientists have developed a robot which can trim and prune gardens.
The self-navigating automated gardening robot, goes by the name ‘Trimbot’, and has been coordinated by researchers at the University of Edinburgh.
The technology used for the robot is close to that of some self-driving cars, which means the robot can localise itself within a map, and avoid any obstacles.
Scientists think that the robot could be used in the future for the maintenance of communal green spaces, for supporting farmers, and for helping those with mobility issues to look after their gardens.
The battery-powered robot uses cameras as well as 3D mapping technology to find its’ way around. It can undertake tasks which require precision with cutting tools, including pruning roses and trimming bushes.
Researchers used the latest technologies in robotics, as well as 3D computer vision techniques. Trimbot has five pairs of cameras which provide a 360 degree view, and has a flexible robotic arm. Both of these elements are connected to an automated lawnmower (the ‘Indego’) made by electronics company Bosch.
The robot is pre-programmed with a rough outline of the garden it is due to tend to, which helps its’ navigation. It then uses the 3D cameras to perform more specific tasks.
The ‘TrimBot2020’ project works in uncontrolled outdoor conditions, without the need for active illumination or sensors. The robot can also navigate varying terrains.
The robot aligns itself, in optimum trimming position next to the bush, and scans the bush shape. It then uses its’ electric plant cutter, attached to the arm. These automated secateurs can prune roses by pinpointing the exact part of each plant’s stem that should be cut. Video footage has been released of Trimbot pruning roses while also moving across a grass lawn.
Researchers created computer algorithms which allow the robot to compare overgrown bushes with the ‘ideal’ final shape, as it trims. Two different algorithms were designed for topiary bushes (using rotating blades) and rose bushes (using a stem clipper).
The robot is also able to deal with moving target plants, leaves and branches.
Professor Bob Fisher, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, who coordinated the project, said: “Getting the robot to work reliably in a real garden was a major feat of engineering. The eight partner teams developed new robotics and 3D computer vision technology to enable it to work outdoors in changing lighting and environmental conditions.”
The four-year project, coordinated by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme.
It also involved scientists from the Dutch universities of Wageningen University and Research, Amsterdam, and Groningen, the German University of Freiburg, the Swiss university of ETH Zurich and technology company Bosch.