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Robotics :: Component Designs

Annual Progress Report:


  1. Development of a highly articulated harvesting arm capable of harvesting both surface and interior canopy fruit.
  2. Development of an effective harvesting gripper mechanism for Florida citrus.

Current work

Design and Optimization of Manipulator Arm Operation.
The current prototype harvesting arm has been adequate for the development of visual servoing capabilities, but lacks the range of motion, speed and cost efficiency necessary for a marketable system. We have been working on several concepts, which should lead to significant advancement in harvesting arm technologies. We will continue modeling manipulator configurations, designing a new prototype, and fabricating a harvesting manipulator and its control system. Once fully developed, the manipulator will be tested in the laboratory and field to perfect the harvesting manipulator’s performance. This will be the cornerstone of the robotics development program.

End-Effector Development.
Citrus harvesting action tests will be conducted during the upcoming spring harvest. These tests will provide valuable information that can be used in developing an efficient end-effector for harvesting citrus. As harvesting technique tests are completed, design and development work will continue toward the fabrication of a functional end-effector prototype.


  1. In early 2006 we published an invited overview on the computer aided design and synthesis of robot manipulators for agriculture and submitted another article on the performance indices for kinematic analysis of agricultural robot manipulator configurations. We have evaluated the availability and suitability of electrical and hydraulic motors, gear drives, valves, and associated components for use in the design of a four degrees of freedom (DOF) manipulator. After a preliminary cost/benefit comparison, hydraulic actuators and valves were selected and mechanical design is being completed. We have begun fabricating a prototype of the manipulator, which will consist of 4 of the 7 planned joints. Preliminary test will be conducted to evaluate the actuators and the dexterity of the 4-joint arm.
  2. We have completed the design of a phase II end effector and it is currently being fabricated. Preliminary harvesting motion tests, and physical properties tests were conducted last season and a publication was prepared and submitted to the Transactions of the ASABE. We will conduct a series of experiments this spring harvest to further determine the optimum harvesting motion, and validate the performance of the new end-effector. We will use this data to generate a model of the optimum harvesting motion based on the manipulator’s configuration and the location of the fruit.


  • 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

Visits since 05/21/2014