A first UV-robot prototype has been built for the treatment of strawberries. It carries 8 UV lamps of 160W (made by Cleanlight) of which 4 cover the left side and another 4 the right side. Each side can be switched on or off by one button and also the individual lamps can be switched on and off. The height and the angle of the lamps can be adjusted.
The vehicle is battery operated. Given the large power needs of the lamps (1280W in total), this is a challenge. Coping with the volume and the weight of the battery is a technical issue. The higher the energy capacity, the more costly they are and batteries are expensive. In addition, batteries that allow shorter charging times are also more costly. Keeping the battery cost low is a very important factor for the economic feasibility of UV treatments.
Currently, the vehicle is operated by remote control. The operator selects one of the predefined speeds (0.225 km/h, 0.54 km/h, 0.9 km/h, 1.8 km/h or 3.6 km/h) and only has to steer the vehicle, while pressing the dead man switch. The latter prevents driving without human supervision. The predefined speeds correspond to a certain UV dosage.
The idea is to drive the robot autonomously. Once the driving of the vehicle is sufficiently evaluated, the vehicle will be equipped with a positioning system to locate the vehicle in the crop rows. When this is found to be sufficiently reliable, a first version of automated driving will be tested.