Don’t Sleep On The Lawn, There’s An AI-Powered, Flamethrower-Wielding Robot About

Flamethrower weedkiller mounted on a robot arm riding a tank tracked base

You know how it goes, you’re just hanging out in the yard, there aren’t enough hours in the day, and weeding the lawn is just such a drag. Then an idea just pops into your head. How about we attach a gas powered flamethrower to a robot arm, drive it around on a tank-tracked robotic base, and have it operate autonomously with an AI brain? Yes, that sounds like a good idea. Let’s do that. And so, [Dave Niewinski] did exactly that with his Ultimate Weed Killing Robot.

And you thought the robot overlords might take a more subtle approach and take over the world one coffee machine at a time? No, straight for the fully-autonomous flamethrower it is then.

This build uses a Kinova Robots Gen 3 six-axis arm, mounted to an Agile-X Robotics Bunker base. Control is via a Connect Tech Rudi-NX box which contains an Nvidia Jetson Xavier NX Edge AI computing engine. Wow that was a mouthful!

Connectivity from the controller to the base is via CAN bus, but, sadly no mention of how the robot arm controller is hooked up. At least this particular model sports an effector mount camera system, which can feed straight into the Jetson, simplifying the build somewhat.

To start the software side of things, [Dave] took a video using his mobile phone while walking his lawn. Next he used RoboFlow to highlight image stills containing weeds, which were in turn used to help train a vision AI system. The actual AI training was written in Python using Google Collaboratory, which is itself based on the awesome Jupyter Notebook (see also Jupyter Lab on the main site. If you haven’t tried that yet, and if you do any data science at all, you’ll kick yourself for not doing so!) Collaboratory would not be all that useful for this by itself, except that it gives you direct, free GPU access, via the cloud, so you can use it for AI workloads without needing fancy (and currently hard to get) GPU hardware on your desk.

Details of the hardware may be a little sparse, but at least the software required can be found on the WeedBot GitHub. It’s not like most of us will have this exact hardware lying around anyway. For a more complete description of this terrifying contraption, checkout the video after the break.

25 thoughts on “Don’t Sleep On The Lawn, There’s An AI-Powered, Flamethrower-Wielding Robot About

    1. Absurdity, yes, because it doesn’t work as expected. You have to remove the roots to get rid of plants you don’t like. Burning a hole in the lawn just makes them grow back stronger than before.

      1. If you burn the surface of the weed repeatedly you will definitely kill it, as no plant can regrow off stored energy alone indefinitely, and one dose might kill it just fine – really depends on so many factors but there is a reason on roads and walls burning weeds is done – it does work, doesn’t have poison running off into the drains and you really can’t dig out the root in that case..

    2. So a big augur might do better. Perhaps it would be possible to both drill and burn with a dual head. And this ignores the really interesting aspect of roaming around and finding things to try to destroy.

      1. Robut spot treatment with 2-4-D would be really efficient and use very little of the broad-leaf killer – like tiny spurts from a spray bottle nozzle with a circular shield around the weed area. And not hurt the lawn or anything else.

  1. Assume that the flamethrower looks much more “cool” but would produce terrible smell. In Prague (and assume they had it in other cities as well) they have a hot steam producing machine where the guy use a hose with steam nozzle to destroy the weed growing through pavement, on walls etc. It’s clean, environmentally friendly, there is no smell and no flammable substances used.

    Maybe the robot arm could use one of those steam cleaners in a similar way as the flamethrower. Plus, you can use th hot steam also in areas where you should not use open fire.

      1. Do you really need it though?
        Maybe just set up a giant pen plotter made out of rope over the entire lawn.
        A fine tube and a car screen washer pump, add some sodium chlorate solution and no more weeds.

  2. I love the idea, but my weeds are a continuous item, and a full-on forest fire could happen. So understand it’s on me to add a 55gal barrel to collect rain water and wet the area around the random “singular” weed I’m trying to get rid of, how about coggen grass? I really am trying to figure that one out? Anyone else trying to figure that issue out on remote ranch land? It is a major problem and I don’t know what to do.

    1. If you want something less enthusiastic than a flamethrower, a machine learning model trained to find the base of weeds, where they emerge from the ground, coupled with a 2W laser diode, seems like it would be less frightening: the fires would be a lot smaller and easier to control.
      I haven’t fought cogon grass. I have fought ailanthus altissima, which is a small tree with a very extensive rhizome system that can survive the tree being cut or burned, and is allelopathic. It is possible to kill something like this purely by physical weed removal, but it is extremely time intensive: I spent two years of pulling every sprout that showed up, every other day, for 10 months of the year, before they stopped resprouting from the rhizomes, which had finally starved. But honestly this is a case for herbicides, unless you have hundreds of hours to spend weeding. In my case I probably spent 200 hours weeding on a 20×20 meter patch, so if you have remote ranch land you’re probably talking about square kilometers, which would be a full time job just doing weeding.
      On the other hand, a robot with a laser could work 12 hour days for a whole year just zapping every single sprout.
      I still think herbicide would be more cost effective.

  3. A modern version of a goat. Consumes/destroys weeds – but a general menace also. When will Amazon be shipping these?

    Burning weeds by walls and paths works pretty well as no grass to distroy. Might not get the roots, but keep at it and the weeds don’t like it. Helps reduce the amount of weedkiller required and is kinda fun.

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