Field Robot 2009
competition of robots in maize field
In order to extend our robotic horizons we participated in Field Robot Event
(FRE) contest. The motivation for this contest is automated agricultural
machinery. There are four categories/tasks: navigation (pass through curved
rows of maize), advanced navigation (extra transitions between straight rows
of various length), weed control (spay randomly dropped green golf balls/weeds
in the row as precise as possible) and free-style (show something interesting
related to agriculture topic).
Eduro Team FRE2009:
- Jan Roubíček — mechanics
- Tomáš Roubíček — electronics
- Jiří Iša — software, image processing
- Martin Dlouhý — software, integration
- Kamil Řezáč — photographer, documentation
- Romana Zemanová — PR, support
On July 6th 2009, we are coming to a little town Wageningen, place of the
contest. We are full touristic experiences of five days travel. The rest of
our team is still on the way from Czech Republic with two hours remaining
behind their steering wheel. So we are searching for Technotron building and register
Eduro Team. Surprise number one - instead of expected dormitories, „low-cost
accommodation” is a local sport hall. Moreover we have to pack every morning
because the hall is used normally during the day.
While switching car into terrain mode (short prayer for the undercarriage) we
are coming across a ditch and meadows to contest area. There are two fields in
reality: the first is the official contest field (fenced and guarded), the second is
the field for testing (praise organizers ). Unfortunately there are no 50m
long rows we expected, they are only approximately 15m long.
There are several teams already testing — they are trying to understand what
is going on and they are hopelessly running around their robots and
vandalize the maize. We are taking over the last power plug and waiting for
others. In mean time organizers are building tents and bringing benches and
tables. We finally see Martin's Fabia on the horizon. According to the latest
news nothing is working properly, so quick unpack and start to work.
The number of teams is increasing as well as the number of working robots.
There are few drops from the sky, omen of future events. During the day we are
fighting with some problems with Wi-Fi on our robot Explorer, but in the evening
we can finally see the first successful pass of one row.
The sky is getting darker and darker, so we pack and move to sport center. The
first emissary Jirka tries to investigate our accommodation.
He is reporting back shortly that nobody knows
anything and that they do not let us in the sport
hall. We are not giving up and we send tender 1/6th of our team. She is
returning with the key from a dressing room (hurray, we will avoid groups in
the gymnastic hall).
We move our stuff and outside the prize downpour starts. The keeper comes, to avoid
boredom, and moves us to conference room — the dressing room will be under
reconstruction the next morning, he says. The conference room is warm, bad
smelly from some glue, but we are very tired so shortly all of us fall asleep.
The second day we return back to competition area, we see that from
approximately ten party tents only two remained. The rest was gone with wind
(we do not expect foray of plundering clans). The sky is getting darker again
and weather forecast shows that the roof above our heads will be more than
necessary. While we are testing, organizers somehow manage by magic to get new
tents. There are also more switchboards, but they are mostly taken by audio
system. Unfortunately this is means that sometimes somebody cuts the power
without warning. Surely timing is perfect so we lost power when we were
flashing motor controller to make the robot be more suitable for rough terrain
For breakfast we got paper bag with a bun with cheese, a bun with salami, a
sweet ban and milk. Not bad.
After briefing of team leaders, we learn schedule and judge criteria.
Surprisingly it is possible to get the same amount of points for „smoothness”
(points from judges) as for the unbiased performance. Moreover system of
penalty points gives clear winning strategy — take a robot armful and run the
track with it. Well, we will see …
There is ongoing show of „big robots” on the next meadow. You could see
modified tractor, adjusted lawn mower Spider, all-directional constructions
etc. The tractor is driving the best, but it does not gain any audience - it
looks like tractor, drives likes tractor, so what? It is hard life of working
During the day, the Mother Nature does not spare water. So once a while there
are from ten to fifteen spectators under our 2 by 2 meters tent. They are
mostly people form agriculture conference, which is running in parallel with
For lunch we got paper bag. There is, for a change, a ban with cheese, a ban
with salami, a sweet ban and juice. We start to sniff and hope, that there will
be no paper bag for evening barbecue. Hope dies last.
The start of competition is postponed several times due to rain. Finally,
organizers operatively change the program and start with the last discipline
(weed control). The contest is taken in a hall under bad light conditions and
among artificial flowers. Most of the teams are using camera for ball
detection, some of them even used color of chlorophyll for calibration, so you
can imagine happiness without limits.
The results meet expectations. We are the only ones who drove the row without
touching the plants. The others cut the artificial flowers as this is the main
goal in the rules specification. Detection of balls practically does not work
at all. So although we do not have any spraying mechanism, it is not a big
In mean time the weather is getting better and the contest returns back to
outside. Our robot is driving more or less with assurance, and for given time
limit (3 minutes) we complete one row only. This is true also in a real contest
run during the navigation task. Again as one of few we drove without touching
the robot (there is 5m penalty). The others mostly straighten up their robots,
and instead of autonomous turning to the next row they are moved manually in
The rows for advanced navigation are shorter. Now everybody tensely waits
if our robot will turn by itself or will be manually moved (b/ is correct).
Most of the teams again carry their robots, and some carries even do
not know how to count correct number of rows. Their meters are regardless count
and even the evaluation from jury is surprisingly high. It looks like the main
criteria for „smoothness” is correlation between university sponsors.
The podium is getting full and it is time for the last task. During the day
somebody mentioned that we could show our waterproofing robot, but we decide
not to push the luck and skip this task (it does not count in the total score
anyway). You could see maize demolition, pull of water pipe or switch of some
motor parts. In general all demonstrations look clap up — teams focused
on competitions tasks mainly.
There are no partial results available (gained points, driven meters, etc.),
which is a bad surprise for us. The time delay was overcome, and the
announcement of results is only a half an hour later than planned (the contest
started three hours late). The first places belong to home and well sponsored
teams. It seems to me strange (and sad), that to some teams audience does practically
not applaud …
Celebratory grilling is managed interestingly — everybody gets some
pieces of raw meat and sausages, and grills it yourself. Drinks are based
on token system. Not far away sits a group of Czech delegates of conference,
drink „slivovice” and prepare plans of domination of something.
Back in sport hall we find out, that this time we will not avoid the gymnasium.
We are the first there, so we take over terraces. Later on there is a German
group coming from grill party, expertly pull the matrices and make noise long
We pack and go to breakfast. For breakfast we got (try to guess, it is
not so difficult). Oh well …
Today are a workshop and a final launch on program. It looks like most of the teams
already left (approx half of the teams are on workshop). Moreover, only the top five
teams have the opportunity to present their solutions. We try to distribute
some Robotour leaflets but response is rather half-hearted.
Lunch is in the main building where conference takes place. The catering lady
looks bitterly at us — we do not have suits and maybe even our smell is not
appropriate. The soup is gone, so the main course is bans with something.
We say goodbye, and Martin with Roubíček's is returning back to Czech
Republic. We continue in our vacation program. We have seen the contest,
collected some data and contacts, but the execution of the competition somehow
did not fully satisfy us especially when we take into account that it was the 7th
If you are interested in this contest and plan to participate next year in
Germany or just write a comment to this article
let us know