A new robot is armed with a chainsaw and the ability to climb trees and perform autonomous pruning.
The robot was detailed in "A Pruning Robot With a Power-Saving Chainsaw Drive," a paper presented at the 2013 IEEE International Conference on Mechatronics and Automation. The paper was written by Yasuhiko Ishigure, Katsuyuki Hirai, and Haruhisa Kawasaki of Marutomi Seiko Company and Japan's University of Gifu. It was described in IEEE Spectrum, the online media outlet for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
As author Evan Ackerman notes, one might think that, "Of all the things you should not give robots—lasers, knives, swords—one of the worst is possibly chainsaws."
But he goes on to describe why a robot for pruning tree limbs is actually a very good idea—compared to the dangerous human method, in which a person climbs a tree and hangs on with one hand while wielding a chainsaw. Author Ackerman notes that this work results in 10 times more injuries than factory work.
The robot weighs about 29 lb and can climb trees with a diameter of 2.3 inches to almost 10 inches. It climbs a tree as fast as one meter every four seconds, cutting branches with diameters as big as 5 cm (almost 2 inches).
The Spectrum article said early testing of the prototype appears to be on very straight trees in an "experimental forest." Testing of the prototype will include making the robot better able to work with a variety of trees.
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