Robot Fights Invasive Spotted Lanternflies

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute have developed an autonomous robot called TartanPest to combat the spread of spotted lanternflies, invasive insects that cause significant damage to valuable crops. TartanPest utilizes an all-electric tractor, a robotic arm, and computer vision to navigate fields and forests, identifying and eliminating spotted lanternfly egg masses. These egg masses, which contain 30-50 eggs, are commonly found on various surfaces such as trees, rocks, outdoor furniture, and rusty metal objects. By addressing this issue now, the team aims to prevent the predicted nationwide spread of spotted lanternflies and save substantial costs in the future.

TartanPest was created by attaching a robotic arm to the base of an all-electric Amiga microtractor developed by Farm-ng, a robotics company based in California. The robot utilizes a deep learning model trained on a dataset of 700 images of spotted lanternfly egg masses from iNaturalist to accurately identify and remove them from surfaces.

Spotted lanternflies pose a threat to various plants and crops, including grapes, apples, hops, walnuts, and hardwoods. In Pennsylvania alone, the economic impact of these pests can amount to $300 million annually. TartanPest has the potential to benefit small farmers and the food system at large by reducing chemical pollution in crops, enhancing farming efficiency, and lowering labor costs.

The TartanPest team comprises several students from the Robotics Institute, including Carolyn Alex, Simi Asher, Dominic Guri, Cole Herber, RuiJi Liu, Shrijit Singh, and Srinivasan Vijayarangan. Advised by Francisco Yandun, the team presented TartanPest as part of Farm-ng’s 2023 Farm Robotics Challenge.