Robot that drives around autonomously in greenhouse environment and identifies diseases.

Inspired by the work of plantvillage.psu.edu and iita.org, we wanted to use the DonkeyCar platform to build a autonomous robot that can move in a farm environment without damaging existing plants or soil and use object detection to find and mark diseased crops with an environmentally safe color. Traditionally, humans have to manually inspect large farms using their phones to mark the crops, in most high tech cases. This takes a lot of time and effort. Additionally, there are a variety of phones being used that don’t necessarily have all the features required to do the task efficiently or they have to wait for someone with the proper device. A uniform robotic platform going around the farm will solve these problems and make the marking much faster. The speed can also make it easier to share the platform between multiple farms.

Challenges:
Keeping the size/weight of the robot small enough that it doesn’t damage the crops itself.
Navigating without damaging existing crops.
Finding a way to safely mark diseased crops.
Finding a dataset and farm to possibly test the platform

Background:
Our Teamato team came together as a result of the fact that we are all members of the Detroit Autonomous Vehicle Group and the Ann Arbor Autonomous Vehicle Group. These are both Meetup groups. Our team member Sohaib entered the challenge with the above concept and created a post asking if anyone was interested in participating. Alex, Juanito, and David joined with Sohaib and so began a common quest among individuals that had never worked together before. Beyond finding common ground on approach, tech, timing, etc. we had to lay down a framework of meeting schedules, repositories, conferencing tech, and so on. Essentially, all of the components that go into a professional project had to be put in place, except no one was getting paid, we had no budget, and all had work, school, family, etc. commitments. Not a problem as we shared a mutual vision and the will to execute. Interestingly our group of four individuals represented an international community. Each member of our team was multi-lingual and had direct family ties to one or more of the following: China, Germany, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia.We all had a great time and it was an amazing learning experience.

Building the Robot:
Working on the chassis, autonomous navigation, and image classifiction began imeediately and progressed at a good pace. Where we ran into major unexpected challenges and delays related to our chassis and drive system. Simply put we did not anticipate such varying terrains among the test greenhouses, and motors, wheels, wiring, controls, etc. that were fine in scenario A were overwhelmed in scenario B. We went through a large number of mods to dial-in a workable chassis for all of our environments. We had to make a lot of time and budget constraints but the end product exceeded our initial goal of a minimum viable configuration. The final design at the time of submission is described below.”

Link