Tertill – A Weeding Robot from Franklin Robotics

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Every garden has them. Every gardener try’s to eliminate them. Weeds are pesky resilient wild plants and they are found everywhere. From paved surfaces to gardens, this little shrub sets up base anywhere. Much to the annoyance of gardeners, weeding can be an energy draining endeavour. Failing to do so regularly result’s in an unkempt weed ridden garden. Well, thanks to Franklin Robotics, the creators of Tertill, this annoying task has been made easier; a whole lot easier if I might add.

What is Tertill

Tertill is a solar powered gardening robot. It has only one mission in mind and that is to locate and destroy the enemy. By enemy we mean those pesky weeds. It accomplishes its task by silently roaming a designated area in search of stray foliage growth. In a drone like fashion, when invasive foliage is found, it engages its weapon of mass destruction – a nylon string located on its underside. When engaged, this nylon string spins rapidly chopping off all the foliage that lay beneath.

Identification

With a weight factor of 1.1 Kg, its cylindrically shaped body measures 210mm in width and 121mm in height. The solar panel responsible for its energy resources is embedded on its flat surface. Four outward facing wheels mounted on its underside allows for mobility.

Functionality

Its ergonomic design makes it resistant to windy conditions and its splayed wheels allows for it to navigate through rough terrain. Also waterproof, it is unaffected by water and rain. Complex software algorithms coupled with built in sensors aid in its navigation. Using solar power to power up, the need to recharge its battery is fairly well catered for. For ‘weed whacking’ a powerful motor serves at its core and proves victorious against weeds within the manufacturers specified range.

Data Collection and wireless connectivity

As the Tertill roams, it collects valuable data and statistics which provide the gardener with much needed insight into gardening conditions. Using Bluetooth it transfers the data collected, to the accompanying Tertill software app on a connected mobile device. Through the app one can keep track of all Tertill’s activities for the day.

Pitfalls

Not without some pitfalls, the climbing of rocks is almost impossible and the bot cannot move up gradients of more than 22 degrees (40 %). To keep the bot from wandering away it has to be confined by means of a barrier 2 inches (5 cm) or higher. Also, instead of pulling roots, it merely chops off foliage protruding from the surface of the ground. Designers have responded to this by mentioning that the constant chopping of weeds in contrast to pulling, results in their untimely demise as they run out of energy for growth.  Furthermore in its identification of weeds, its algorithm ignores all foliage that’s taller than 1 inch (2.5 cm) high which means that any garden or space has to be weeded out first.

Due to being solar powered, Tertill performs at a slower pace on cloudy days. Not really a pitfall when taking into consideration the fact that plant growth also slows down in limited light conditions. Furthermore, it is worth noting that Tertill does not shut down completely and once the sun is out again it resumes its hunt with great vigour. To protect short seedlings from being mistaken as weeds, a wire collar has to be placed around them.

Upgrades

Future plans for the Tertill include the addition of other functions and capabilities such as the distribution of pest repellents, a scarecrow function and an enhanced set of sensors to assess soil quality.

Release date

Currently available on pre-order at $250 via Kickstarter, the company plans to make its first shipment in May 2018. After that the retail price is set to rise to $300 a piece.

Check out our video below:

All images and footage in this article courtesy of Kickstarter

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