Friday, April 12, 2024

TartanPest robot helps control the spread of spotted lanternfly

A team of students at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute has developed an autonomous robot to control the spread of spotted lanternflies, invasive insects known to destroy economically important crops.

Lanternflies feed on a wide range of plants and produce, including grapes, apples, hops, walnuts, and many different hardwoods. These insects have been causing harm to crops and trees in Pennsylvania and other nearby states. The robot is designed to identify and eliminate flies with a targeted spray that does not harm other insects or plants.

The TartanPest robot consists of a Ufactory xArm6 robotic arm and a computer vision system mounted on an all-electric Amiga micro tractor created by California-based robotics company Farm-ng. The robot uses these features to traverse fields and forests while it detects and destroys spotted lanternfly egg masses.

The system utilizes a deep learning model refined on an augmented image data set created from 700 images of spotted lanternfly egg masses from iNaturalist to identify them and scrape them off surfaces. The egg masses contain approximately 30 to 50 eggs and are often found on trees, rocks, outdoor furniture, and rusty metal surfaces. These are laid in the fall and hatch the following spring, birthing a new generation of pests each year.

“Currently, spotted lanternflies are concentrated in the eastern portion of the nation, but they are predicted to spread to the whole country,” said Carolyn Alex, an undergraduate researcher on the TartanPest team. “By investing in this issue now, we will be saving higher costs in the future.”

TartanPest could benefit small farmers and the broader food system by lowering the chemical pollution of crops, increasing efficiency on farms, and saving labor costs for farmers.

The TartanPest team includes RI students Carolyn Alex, Simi Asher, Dominic Guri, Cole Herber, RuiJi Liu, Shrijit Singh, and Srinivasan Vijayarangan. The team, advised by Francisco Yandun, presented TartanPest as part of Farm-ng’s 2023 Farm Robotics Challenge.