Publication Date: 
August 2016
Co-Robotic Device for Automated Tuning of Emitters to Enable Precision Irrigation. David V. Gealy, Stephen McKinley, Menglong Guo, Lauren Miller, Stavros Vougioukas, Joshua Viers, Stefano Carpin, Ken Goldberg. IEEE International Conference on Automation Science and Engineering, (CASE), Dallas, TX. Aug 2016

"Agriculture accounts for 85% of the world’s freshwater usage. Drip irrigation significantly reduces water usage and has been adopted by many farms, orchards, and vineyards. Rubber or PVC tubing is fitted with thousands of drip emitters whose water pressure and flow are controlled by a small number of valves resulting in suboptimal use of water resources. UAVs and other sensors are used to determine water needs and compute appropriate valve settings. As there are far more plants than valves, it is currently not possible to achieve ”precision irrigation”: adjusting flow at the individual plant level to compensate for variations in plant and soil properties, elevation, sun-angle, evapotranspiration, drainage, and emitter contamination by dirt or insects. As it is possible to retro-fit existing systems with low-cost, passive plastic screwadjustable emitters that are commercially available, this paper presents a design for an automated ”co-robotic” device that would allow such emitters to be systematically adjusted in the field to fine-tune water delivery at the plant level. This paper describes the mechatronic design, prototype, and initial experiments with a hand-held device designed with a coarseto-fine mechanism to facilitate alignment to passive emitters in the field and precise automated adjustment of flow settings. We report experiments with an implemented prototype that can compensate for orientation error up to ±39 degrees and position error up to ±42.5mm when adjusting a 16mm emitter cap"