There is a four-acre soybean test field outside Athens, Georgia, where University of Georgia plant genetics researchers roam back and forth every summer. They scribble detailed notes and make daily observations as different breeds of soybeans grow in the July sun. As they plod up and down the rows, they measure crop growth and gauge leaf wilting, among other things, trying to correlate phenotypes with desirable drought tolerance properties to help ensure the future of farming. It's repetitive, monotonous, and very hot.
This summer, Georgia Tech researchers will join them to bring the future a little closer. George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering's Jonathan Rogers and GTRI Senior Research Engineer Ai-Ping Hu will use the field of robotics to create a field of robots. Their team is building machines that will hang over the crops, suspended by parallel guy-wires. The robots, fitted with cameras, will swing like gibbons along the cables, taking picture after picture of each plant. Down each row, then side to side, and back again, from one wire to another.
With Georgia Tech robots dangling over the field, UGA researchers will be able to get more frequent measurements and to avoid some laborious field work. Someday, they may be able to stay at their laptops miles away, in the air conditioning, scanning a steady stream of images and data sent back from the robots.
This is Tarzan.
Source and top image: Georgia Tech