[chbot] Wilding Pines - Opensource Ecology Project?

Andy ZL3AG zl3ag at radioengineering.com
Sat Dec 10 23:14:56 GMT 2016

This is about NZ's wilding pine problem. It's been in the news a bit recently - it seems to get mentioned every once in a while then disappears off the radar for those of us who don't have to deal with it.

One clip I saw showed 2 people in a helicopter spraying pine trees one-by-one - that's gotta be an expensive way of dealing with the problem! If that is what it takes, the country will go bankrupt getting rid of them.

I was thinking that we have the knowledge base within our group to come up with an open source project specifically designed to deal with these trees. The longer they're in the ground the harder the are to deal with of course, but if we came up with a preliminary model that targeted newly sprouted seedlings we could help do something about this plague.

My initial thoughts:

100% self contained autonomous - no good if you have to visit it every day to refill the herbicide tank.

Powers itself (solar panel)
Can work 24/7 if that's viable (battery storage + lighting)
GPS guided (you enter the coordinates of the target area and it doesn't stray from there).
Cuts seedling at/near  base using electric shear (unless someone has a better idea).
Logs all trees destroyed as well as any it finds that are too big for it to deal to, and reports back to base via cell data each night.
Electronics pieced together from Aliexpress modules.

Potential sticking points:
How to recognise the target tree.
Can these pines be reliably killed by being cut off or will they re-shoot if the ground is wet enough at the time?
A lot of the problem areas are steep hillsides

I envisage building the mechanicals from cheap re-used items - abandoned bicycles being the obvious first choice. It doesn't have to look pretty, just be big enough to carry the required solar panel, and to be able to get where it needs to go. If we come up with a good design for the main platform it could prove useful for other projects later on. Maybe there's an open-source bicycle-parts-based design out there already?

I've got some 24v chain drive motors that might suit the system, and I'm fairly adept at sourcing cheap used bits.

If a prototype proved successful you could turn it into a competition with teams in men-sheds throughout the country building these things and letting them loose and tallying up scores. Battlebots with a great environmental outcome.

Anyone else keen to contribute?


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