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Robotics :: System Development

Annual Progress Report:


  1. Development of improved sensing, fruit detection, data archiving, machine intelligence, and visual servo control capabilities.
  2. Development of harvesting system technologies for multiple harvesting arm coordination and control.

Current work

Harvesting Arm Control-sensor Interface Development.
The harvesting manipulator has undergone preliminary field testing, where the current sensors and manipulator controls have operated under actual harvesting conditions. Through additional testing, we will seek to improve the visual servo control system, enhance functionality and improve robustness under varying grove conditions. Once this is accomplished we can begin testing high speed harvesting and interior fruit removal.

Harvesting Systems Development.
Current work has focused on the development of the manipulator and its control system. To this end, a mobile research laboratory has been developed which will allow us to test various sensors, harvesting arms and control strategies. However, in order for a viable harvesting system to be implemented for citrus, significant research will need to be conducted to integrate the robotic manipulator, positioning systems, canopy manipulation, and post-harvest fruit handling. There are several novel approaches that we would like to pursue once the harvesting manipulator has been completed. These topics will be addressed in this portion of the research and development. However, this will be pre-prototype level testing; it is not envisioned in the scope of this project to integrate the full system. We will seek to identify and test the most viable concepts, which can later be incorporated into a turn-key system. This phase of the research will not proceed until other topics have been more fully developed.


  1. During the past months, work has been concentrated on developing the requirements for a multi-manipulator, cooperative harvesting system. We have developed an instrument for testing the mechanical compliance of the citrus tree canopy as a precursor to the design of the multi-manipulator system. This includes design of the physical instrument and development of instrumentation requirements. In addition, a testing program is currently being developed for the canopy compliance test.


  • S. Mehta, W. Dixon, T. Burks, and S. Gupta, “Teach by Zooming Visual Servo Control for an Uncalibrated Camera System”, Proceedings of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Guidance Navigation and Controls Conference, AIAA-2005-6095, San Francisco, 2005.
  • Subramanian, V., T.F. Burks, and . A.A. Arroyo. 2006. Machine Vision and Laser Radar-based Vehicle Guidance System for Citrus Grove Navigation: A Performance Comparison. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture (accepted with revision 1/24/06)
  • Sivaraman B., T. Burks, and J. Schueller. Using Modern Robot Synthesis and Analysis Tools for the Design of Agricultural Manipulators. Agricultural Engineering International: the CIGR Ejournal. Invited Overview Paper No. 2. Vol. VIII. January, 2006.
  • Flood, S.J., T.F. Burks, and A.A. Teixeira. 2005. Physical Properties of Oranges in Response to Applied Gripping Forces for Robotic Harvesting. Transactions of ASAE (submitted 12/20/05).
  • Sivaraman, B., and T.F. Burks. 2005. Geometric Performance Indices for Analysis and Synthesis of Manipulators for Robotic Harvesting. Transactions of ASAE (submitted 12/20/05)

For more information

Tom Burks