The US cotton industry provided over 190,000 jobs and more than $28 billion total economic contributions to the United States in 2012. The US is the third-largest cotton-producing country in the world, following India and China. US cotton producers have been able to stay competitive with countries like India and China by adopting the latest technologies. Despite the success of technology adoption, there are still many challenges, e.g., increased pest resistance, mainly glyphosate resistant weeds, and early indications of bollworm resistance to Bt cotton (genetically modified cotton that contains genes for an insecticide). Commercial small unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) or mobile ground robots with navigation-sensing modality provide a platform to increase farm management efficiency. The platform can be retrofitted with different implements that perform a specific task, e.g., spraying, scouting (having multiple sensors), phenotyping, harvesting, etc. This paper presents a proof-of-concept cotton harvesting robot. The robot was retrofitted with a vacuum-type system with a small storage bin. A single harvesting nozzle was used and positioned based on where most cotton bolls were expected. The idea is to create a simplified system where cotton bolls′ localization was undertaken as a posteriori information, rather than a real-time cotton boll detection. Performance evaluation for the cotton harvesting was performed in terms of how effective the harvester suctions the cotton bolls and the effective distance of the suction to the cotton bolls. Preliminary results on field test showed an average of 57.4% success rate in harvesting locks about 12 mm from the harvester nozzle. The results showed that 40.7% was harvested on Row A while 74.1% in Row B for the two-row test. Although both results were promising, further improvements are needed in the design of the harvesting module to make it suitable for farm applications.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited