As Cornell University researchers refine their robotic tractors and sprayers, don’t expect to see a robot, such as the one that appeared in the classic television show Lost in Space, at the steering wheel.

Andrew Landers, a pesticide application engineer at the university’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, leads a team that will develop, test and evaluate a fleet of autonomous tractors designed for precision agriculture applications. The National Robotics Engineering Center at Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon University is a collaborator.

Cornell researchers will focus on an automatic sprayer that recognizes canopy volume and adjusts air and chemical deposition accordingly. Mellon University will develop the tractor.

Among the project’s goals are developing tree-level low-cost precision agriculture applications and soliciting feedback from growers, regulators and technology suppliers.

The researchers also will study applications, such as how disease detection, yield estimation and precision spraying can be most effectively deployed from the mobile platform.

John Deere will deliver four tractors for deposition and drift-reduction testing at Southern Gardens Citrus in Florida. Although this phase of the work will be done in orange groves, the technology will be easily transferred to orchards and vineyards.

Researchers hope to deliver a prototype in one year and complete the project in three years.

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