UT students design flying robotic fruit harvesting system

Nicole Stuessy

Three UT students from different colleges joined together to design a flying robot with hands that pick fruit.

Mechanical engineering junior Uksang Yoo, chemical engineering and government senior Logan Hageman, and biochemistry and business honors junior Arjun Menta came up with the LV FruitFly, a robotic fruit harvesting platform. Their robot was presented at the Shell Ideas360 competition, where they represented the U.S. this summer in London. Their product was selected as one of five finalists out of over 1,100 entries.

Yoo said he based the idea for the LV FruitFly off of overhead cameras used to broadcast football games, and the team used a 3D printer to build a prototype.

“These are cameras that are connected to four wires, and they kind of, like, zoom around the field,” Yoo said. “I searched them up on Google and found that there is no use for these systems other than moving cameras over a field, and in the back of my mind, I always thought that there was some sort of importance for this besides cameras.”

Yoo said utilizing soft robotic arms to pick the fruit mimics the effect of human hands, something traditional robotic arms can’t do.

“Human hands have appendages and are able to pick the fruit without damaging them,” Yoo said. “By replacing a traditional robotic arm with a soft robotic arm, I was able to take some of the advantages from human hand picking.”

LV FruitFly benefits the environment and eliminates the need for workers in harsh labor conditions, Hageman said. 

“When you have an aerial system, you’re able to actually shrink that space (between trees), which allows you to generate up to 30 percent more food on the same amount of land,” Hageman said. “There is also shading between the two canopies, so the water we’re using, not as much of it is lost as runoff.”

David Platt, associate dean for undergraduate programs at McCombs School of Business, said the collaboration between these three students in different colleges is something McCombs looks for with their new entrepreneurship minor.

“This is a great example of the talent of our UT-Austin undergrads and of the innovation that can happen when students from different colleges collaborate,” Platt said in an email. “We’d like to see more of that, which is why the new McCombs entrepreneurship minor is open to students across campus.”