Indian researchers have developed a robot prototype—which can be operated through a smartphone app or a joystick—to help farmers pluck coconuts from the trees. The unmanned robotic coconut tree climber robot or “cocobot” was showcased at the Robotics and Automation for Humanitarian Applications (RAHA 2016) conference at the Amrita University in Amritaputi, Kerala.
It requires incredible amount of dexterity for a laborer to climb the tree and pluck coconuts while rotating around it. “It is a very risky job and people do not have any safety harnesses. They climb the coconut trees that are as tall as 10 to 15 meters. Any slippage could make a laborer fall directly on the ground. Many families have been affected as the laborer is the only earning member in the family,” said Adithye Suresh, a mechanical engineer who works as a researcher at the Amrita University.
To solve this problem, a team headed by the director of Humanitarian Technologies Labs (HuT Labs) at the Amrita University, Rajesh Kannan Megalingam has built the robot.
“We call our cocobot Amaran and there is also an app in the Google Play Store by the same name,” said added Suresh. The Hut Labs mainly on two branches of robotics—rehabilitation and agricultural robotics.
Mr. Megalingam said that there are families in Kerala that live by the income of 4 to 5 coconuts trees. “Their entire livelihood depends on a few trees. Also, there is an accurate shortage of laborers in Kerala and because of that, these families suffer a lot. So, we started this research three years back,” he added.
The cocobot comes with a heavy automation body, a robotic arm and a robot controller. It needs the assistance of at least two people. The body can be fixed around the coconut tree along with the arm, while controlling the movements of the robot from the ground using the robot controller—the joystick or the Android app, Amaran.
“Once the robot climbs up, you can move the arm to pluck coconuts,” said Mr. Megalingam. The wi-fi based camera is attached to the body to stream video to help user better understand the position of coconuts to cut them effectively.
The researchers have used Bluetooth wireless technology and wi-fi based camera to develop cocobot. “Sometimes, the trees are very tall and they will not be able to see the coconuts so we are working on installing cameras,” he added.
The team has successfully run a pilot project cutting coconuts from trees around the university campus. They have filed a patent for the design of the product and expect to complete the commercial model by the end of 2017.
The director of Ammachi Labs, Rao R Bhavani said, “We don’t want robotics and automation to take away the jobs of our people. We want technologies to enhance their jobs.”
RAHA 2016 is a pioneering conference that flagged issues that need immediate attention. And through technologies developed by students and researchers, many of the burning issues such as disaster management, load carrying and mining in rural India can be addressed effectively....