Bin management during apple harvest season is an important activity for orchards. Typically, empty and full bins are handled by tractor-mounted forklifts or bin trailers in two separate trips. In order to simplify this work process and improve work efficiency of bin management, the concept of a robotic bin-dog system is proposed in this study. This system is designed with a “go-over-the-bin” feature, which allows it to drive over bins between tree rows and complete the above process in one trip. To validate this system concept, a prototype and its control and navigation system were designed and built. Field tests were conducted in a commercial orchard to validate its key functionalities in three tasks including headland turning, straight-line tracking between tree rows, and “go-over-the-bin.” Tests of the headland turning showed that bin-dog followed a predefined path to align with an alleyway with lateral and orientation errors of 0.02 m and 1.5°. Tests of straight-line tracking showed that bin-dog could successfully track the alleyway centerline at speeds up to 1.00 m·s−1
with a RMSE offset of 0.07 m. The navigation system also successfully guided the bin-dog to complete the task of go-over-the-bin at a speed of 0.60 m·s−1
. The successful validation tests proved that the prototype can achieve all desired functionality.
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