Multiple small rovers can repeatedly pick cotton as bolls begin to open until the end of the season. Several of these rovers can move between rows of cotton, and when bolls are detected, use a manipulator to pick the bolls. To develop such a multi-agent cotton-harvesting system, each cotton-harvesting rover would need to accomplish three motions: the rover must move forward/backward, turn left/right, and the robotic manipulator must move to harvest cotton bolls. Controlling these actions can involve several complex states and transitions. However, using the robot operating system (ROS)-independent finite state machine (SMACH), adaptive and optimal control can be achieved. SMACH provides task level capability for deploying multiple tasks to the rover and manipulator. In this study, a center-articulated hydrostatic cotton-harvesting rover, using a stereo camera to locate end-effector and pick cotton bolls, was developed. The robot harvested the bolls by using a 2D manipulator that moves linearly horizontally and vertically perpendicular to the direction of the rover’s movement. We demonstrate preliminary results in an environment simulating direct sunlight, as well as in an actual cotton field. This study contributes to cotton engineering by presenting a robotic system that operates in the real field. The designed robot demonstrates that it is possible to use a Cartesian manipulator for the robotic harvesting of cotton; however, to reach commercial viability, the speed of harvest and successful removal of bolls (Action Success Ratio (ASR)) must be improved.
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