In Q4 of 2014, PRS was approached to provide control software for a remote fungicide spraying system to be delivered to banana plantation owners in the Caribbean. The challenging terrain and chemical exposure risk on multiple islands meant that local farmers in the area were looking for novel ways to spray their crops. PRS was asked to provide control software to perform the tasks from a safe and comfortable distance, as well as integrating the spraying payload into their existing chassis.
PRS began the project by outfitting the plantation owner’s existing chassis (a J5 mobility platform) with a payload consisting of a fungicide tank and sprayer system. Following this, PRS integrated their ARIS control software suite to allow for remote operation of all vehicle subsystems and payloads. The operational terrain consisted of challenging mountainous regions with very thick vegetation, thus PRS was forced to develop novel human-machine interfaces to ease operator burden and facilitate vehicle handling. The difficult terrain also proved challenging to meet the 1Km non-line-of-sight (NLOS) requirement for the communication link. Multiple systems were evaluated, and steps were taken to minimize bandwidth usage from the control and vision systems, while still maintaining a high level of situational awareness for the operator around the vehicle. Finally, software fail-safe algorithms were added to handle safe operations during communication loss.