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Laser-Armed Robots To Do Weed Control

German scientists at Leibniz Universität Hannover and Laser Zentrum Hannover, Deutsche Welle are hard at work, designing robots armed with lasers to destroy weeds in farmer's fields.

Laser armed Robots and drones for farming and weed control and they will have artificial intelligence algorithms and high resolution cameras for recognizing plants. They would have the goal of having this on a large scale for better "organic farming". The laser system is currently being tested in a greenhouse.

Drones or small robotic planes would fly over the fields. These could also fight weeds near protected waters, where herbicides are not allowed to be used. According to researcher Christian Marx, the German railway service has expressed interest in the project as well. "30 percent of the railway tracks are in water protection areas where you can't use herbicides anyway."

Could robots or drones weeding beds and fields using laser be the answer? At the moment this is only a pipe dream, but in a few years such scenarios could be far from impossible. The laser beam is directed into the growth centre of the plant, thus killing it. In a project funded by the German Research Council (DFG), the scientists started by adjusting the energy of the laser precisely and effectively to the type and height of the plant. “We have to place the beam directly where it is needed,” says project leader Prof. Thomas Rath from the Institute of Biological Production Systems.

The scientists in the current project are concentrating on CO² lasers, which emit beams in the mid-infrared range.

What could go wrong? you may well ask. In Michael Crichton's film Runaway, there was a special squad of police officers that did nothing but deal with robots run amuck.

Farm robot enthusiasts enjoyed the agricultural robot pest controller from the film, which was just one of many robots gone wild.


(Runaway agbot!)

"What's the model? 7799 agricultural?"

"Got yourself a runaway, Jack?"

"...pest controller. The CPU is an old 8088."

"Any armament?"

"Just the claw. And it's only programmed to look for things smaller than an inch."

Update: Fans of the science fiction and fantasy webcomic Gunnerkrigg Court welcome this reference to a laser cow:


(Laser cow from Gunnerkrigg Court)

Thanks to Ashley for pointing this reference out. End update.

Update: 20-Mar-2023 Science fiction authors have an alternative to weeding; namely, plants that defend themselves by focusing sunlight to burn threats. Read about the Slaver sunflowers from Larry Niven’s 1965 story World of Ptavvs. End update.

Via NextBigFuture.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/9/2013)

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