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The remainder of this page provides a high-level overview of the IdaBot project; however, this project is only part of NNU's focus on engineering in agriculture. Please see NNU's agriculture engineering concentration and this video from the Voice of America highlighting the IdaBot and other agriculture-related ressearch at NNU.
The IdaBot prototype autonomously navigates by following a heading providing by a magnetic compass and determining the distance that it has traveled using motor encoders. While these sensors may, in principle, allow the robot to autonomously navigate, they are prone to errors that accumulate with the distance traveled. For example, if the tracks of the robot slip on soft dirt, the encoders may report that the robot has traveled some distance, while, in fact, the robot has not moved at all. Therefore, an RFID system is used to provide error corrections to the robot so that it can accurately determine the distance that it has traveled and also determine when it is adjacent to a particular vine or tree. The RFID navigation system works as follows: small, passive RFID tags (shown in Figure 3) are placed above the grape trellis (or on an orchard tree), as shown in Figure 4. The RFID tags are passive (i.e., they do not contain a power source) and are encapsulated in plastic, allowing them to remain in the vineyard or orchard for many years without maintenance. The RFID tags are read by an RFID reader mounted on the IdaBot. By applying a spatial-averaging algorithm to the phase of the radio frequency signals received from each RFID tag, the IdaBot’s distance to each tag can be determined with a resolution of up to 3-4 inches. Since the RFID tags are fixed on the grape trellis, knowing the distance from the IdaBot to each tag allows the IdaBot to remain centered between the grape trellis rows and accurately estimate how far down the trellis row it has traveled.
The IdaBot prototype was tested on the NNU campus and at Bitner and Williamson Vineyards prior to its final demonstration for the public at Williamson Vineyard. In the testing and the demonstration, the IdaBot was able to perform the following:
 C. Zhou and J. D. Griffin, "Phased-Based Composite Ranging for Backscatter RF Tags: System Analysis and Measurements," in IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation. Available through IEEEXplore.
 C. Zhou and J. D. Griffin, "Accurate Phase-Based Ranging Measurements for Backscatter RFID Tags," in IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters, vol. 11, pp. 152-155, 2012. Available through IEEEXplore or Disney Research.