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Towards aerial robotic pollination for controlled crosses in Pinus taeda

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2022 ASABE Annual International Meeting  2200677.(doi:10.13031/aim.202200677)
Authors:   Piyush Pandey, Juan J. Acosta, Kitt G. Payn, Sierra N. Young
Keywords:   Agricultural robotics, aerial manipulator, Stewart platform, forestry automation

Abstract.. The primary method of producing improved seedlings in the breeding cycle of Pinus taeda (loblolly pine) involves controlled pollination in seed orchards. Pollen from known male strobili is introduced to known mother trees, where the female strobili are isolated from the environment using paper exclusion bags. In the conventional method of pollination, workers use large aerial work platforms to reach tree-tops and manually inject pollen. The development of an aerial robot for automated pollination would reduce the amount of manual labor required in the process and would also reduce the harmful effects of soil compaction caused by heavy machinery. In the current study, we developed an automated pollen injection system designed to be mounted on a multicopter. We describe the conception, design, fabrication, and evaluation of the pollinating device. This device consists of a parallel manipulator that provides the required orientation for a pollen injector equipped with an injecting needle. The insertion of a needle inside the exclusion bag was found to be the most significant challenge in the initial phase of the study; therefore, this paper presents a successful design created after several iterations, along with a discussion of limitations and an outline of future work.

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