Soft Eversion Robots in Application of Minimally Invasive Subsurface Drip Irrigation
From Research Princeton Research Day on April 29th, 2020
This thesis project provides a less invasive and cheaper method for the implementation of subsurface drip irrigation. We combine a worm-like, soft robot (a vine robot) and pneumatic auger drill to create a robot that can dig and grow underground without the removal of topsoil. The vine robot acts as a growing air-filled pipe that, once fully formed, can directly provide water to the roots of the plants. The presented research project involved designing and constructing a robot that can successfully dig through 3 feet of soil and form a pipe-like structure to irrigate crops, provided a proof of concept.
With this low-cost, convenient, and less disruptive approach, the agricultural industry will be incentivized to transition towards subsurface drip irrigation, which uses water more efficiently than traditional irrigation systems. Additionally, from an academic perspective, this is the first soft robot that has navigated underground and lays the groundwork for future work utilizing soft robots in this otherwise unfamiliar territory.