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Waikato Robotics, Automation and Sensing (WaiRAS)

We develop smart machines, robots and visual sensors to perform day to day operations such as harvesting and grading based on companies’ needs in horticultural and agricultural fields. We are in collaboration with multiple partners such as RoboticsPlus, Arborgen, Tendertips and Boyds in developing a system to work in (but not limited to) the outdoor environment. Some example projects are the Autonomous Multipurpose Mobile Platform (AMMP) - an all-purpose autonomous platform, kiwi fruit harvester, asparagus harvester, “the dibbler” that makes holes for common tree types, Pinus Radiata cuttings and lifter-grader machines that grade similar tree types.

We have a long history developing time-of-flight range imaging sensors and are well known for proposing a number of solutions for mitigating errors in ranging and spinning off the company Chronoptics.  Currently scene motion causes large errors in ranging, and we are working on transforming the problem of motion in the scene into velocity measurements. We are also developing a biologically based visual sensor for mobile robotic navigation.

We also develop non-agricultural robots such as robotic hands and compete in the NI Autonomous Robotics Competition held in Australia every year.

Key research projects in this area:

  • Development of a lifting/grading machine
  • Multipurpose orchard robotics – the future for horticulture
  • Robotic asparagus harvester
  • Development of a neural interface for prosthetics - Mahonri Owen Health Research Council Māori PhD Scholarship
  • Transforming the problem of motion blur into a measurement of velocity in time-of-flight range imaging.
  • Biologically based visual sensor for autonomous robotic navigation.
  • Non-destructive evaluation of materials, components and structures using imaging based approaches such as infrared imaging, pulse-phase thermography, thermoelastic stress analysis and digital image correlation.

Academic staff researching in this area:

Robot revolution meets the horticulture industry

Robotics in primary industries: The revolution begins!