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    Research project ENGRAIS

    Merging data for the (autonomous) navigation of a symmetric agricole robot


    Teams: Dynamic and discrete events and Optimization and

    Information, Signal, Image Processing and Life Sciences


    Labeling: none

    Term: 1 year (2019)


    Funding: Atlanstic RFI 2020


    LARIS staff involved: Rémy Guyonneau, Étienne Belin, Philippe Lucidarme, Franck Mercier and an engineer being recruited


    Project partners: Antoine Juan, Florian Gardes (ez-wheel)



    In France, the Ecophyto 2018 plan is one of the actions proposed by the Grenelle de concertation on environmental issues at the end of 2007. This plan was readjusted in 2015 via the Ecophyto II plan, which aims to reduce by 50% the phytosanitary products by 2025 (with a step of 25% for 2020). Thus, the minimization of phytosanitary products constitutes a major stake for French agriculture. For example, a strong action is being taken by the state right now to ban glyphosate in France within three years.

    The robotics community is buzzing to offer credible alternatives for weeding, and robots are starting to appear (Naïo Technology, Ecorobotix, Vitirover ...). The common problem of these robots is to have a navigation adapted to the target crops. This navigation must provide several functions that are:

    • Proper positioning of the robot in the row;
    • Management of the plot cover;
    • Assurance of human, animal and material safety functions.

    The weak point of the currently proposed robots  lies in their dependence on a mono-modal perception, which leads to operating  limitations . Thus an  adapted robot to weeding intra-rows   in market gardening (leek, beetroot, etc.), on LiDAR's1 perception, can only work at a certain stage of development of interest crops (premature weeding  impossible), and below some stage of weed invasion. This is justified by the fact that in the first case the LiDAR does not perceive any plants and can do not be located, in the other case the LiDAR is drowned with information and can not extract the information useful for its positioning. This demonstration is generalizable to all other mono-modal robot by multiplying the hazards, and leads to the conclusion that the multiplicity of the means of perception complement each other well and would allow to return robust the robots' navigation.

    This is the challenge of the ENGRAIS project which aims to propose a way to merge the perception methods to extract useful information for navigation. This data fusion opens the door to multi-cultural robots, and this new deal leads to anticipating a demonstrator able to approach different cultures.

    The reflections carried out and the analysis of the state of the art have led to two important innovations complementary to the data fusion:

    • The manufacture of a symmetrical robot, which has the double peculiarity of limiting maneuvers (especially during the change of rank) and therefore limiting soil compaction but also increasing the perception data (at the front as well as at the back of the robot) which should allow a more robust navigation;
    • The integration of a new wheel technology with  motorization and energy onboard, thus allowing a better stability by lowering the center of gravity and therefore the use of the robot in the presence of steep slopes, without the risk of overturning

    The proof of concept proposed for the ENGRAIS project is ultimately to design and build this symmetrical robot based on a new mobility technology, both material (motorized wheels) and software (data fusion).


    1 Light Detection And Ranging


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