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WSU engineers, scientists prepare to test apple-picking robot

July 16, 2015  WSU News | By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Between 15-18 billion apples are harvested every year in Washington state for fresh market consumption, but often farmers can’t find enough people to pick the fruit.

Many agencies have tried to create a device that will help with the picking process – a machine that is both gentle enough and picks fast enough to make it economically viable for commercial use – but have been unable to do so.

Engineers and scientists at Washington State University Tri-Cities and the WSU Center for Precision and Automatic Agricultural Systems (CPAAS) are creating a practically adoptable robot that will pick apples as efficiently as people.

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Robots Picking Apples

Feb 2015 | The rise of the apple picking robot, by David Kroman

Robots Picking ApplesThree out of five apples in the United States come from Washington. That’s 10-12 billion apples if you’re doing the math – enough to wrap around the earth 29 times. The $2.25 billion earned in 2012 was nearly double the revenue of wheat, the state’s second most lucrative crop. The 100 million crates totaled 4 billion pounds of Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady and Cameo. The amazing thing is that every apple in Washington, in fact every apple worldwide, is hand-picked. Researchers at Washington State University are working to change that.

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Feb 2015 | The State Of Mechanical Apple Harvesting, by Richard Jones

The era of fully automated robotic harvesters navigating orchard rows is still years away. But as we head into the 2015 season, there have been some really impressive developments in orchard mechanization, some of which are available to growers this season.

Washington State University assistant professor Manoj Karkee is part of another team working on robotics, but with a bit of human-machine collaboration.

“We’re working on techniques where people can help the robotics a little to make the technology more adaptable and affordable,” Kankee says.

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Things that Fly in the Sky

Washington State Magazine | by Nichoas Deshais

A slight breeze comes from the north, but it’s not enough to stir the sun-faded windsock above the tarmac near Mann Lake in Lewiston, Idaho. The sudden and unexpected gusts of wind, however, do. It’s a brisk 48 degrees, but of more concern is the smeared cloud taking up the southwestern horizon, out of place among its more defined, cumulus neighbors mottling the blue canvas above.

“We have about ten minutes,” says Chris Chaney, who earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from WSU this year. “We’re going to have to time this right. This is probably one of the most dangerous flights we’ve done.”

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