<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Shimmying up a coconut tree is a job for experts, and certainly not for the faint-hearted. So when the community of coconut climbers began to shrink with the young veering to more “dignified” professions, a worried Kerala government looked for ways to harvest the versatile ‘drupe’ – and found Amaran the robot.Designed by the Amrita University in Kollam, the robotic coconut climber could be the answer to accessing the high-on-a-tree drupe—described variously as a nut, a fruit and a seed—that plays a vital role in the state’s economy and in the kitchen too.”We are looking at Amaran, a robot innovated by Amrita University in Kollam, which acts as a coconut climber. Due to the dearth of people who can cut coconut bunches from the trees, we are witnessing a huge wastage of coconuts every year. We can easily export coconuts to other countries and boost the economy,” M Sivasankar, secretary, Department of Electronics and Information Technology, told DNA.”The government has a very flexible approach towards technology and start-ups. Currently, we need at least 1,000 robots for the job. The current cost of the robot is Rs 1.8 lakh. We have requested the University to look at cost optimisation of the technology, so that the government can afford it,” he added.According to estimates, there are barely 13,000 professional coconut climbers left in the state. In the past five years, at least three of every 10 coconut climbers have quit the practice and there aren’t too many to replace them. Coconuts ripen in just a month and have to be cut as soon as possible. Most coconuts go waste because there aren’t enough skilled people to cut them.”My son is pursuing graduation in Chennai. He doesn’t want carry on coconut climbing. He wants to opt for a dignified job instead. I have been doing it but the profession is looked down upon,” said Velappan T, a coconut climber in Kollam district.With rising literacy levels, there are many others who would rather not follow their father’s footsteps up the coconut tree. It’s about dignity, a better quality of life, and also a safer career.”The job is very risky. Many persons in my village have suffered severe injuries and few have also died. Now I am looking for some dignified job in Kochi. Coconut picking is considered a menial job in my locality,” added Mukundan, another coconut climber.Enter Amaran, the unmanned robotic coconut tree climber and harvester, built at Amrita University’s Humanitarian Technology (HuT) Labs under the leadership of Dr Rajesh Kannan Megalingam. It consists of an automaton body, robotic arm and a robot controller, which is part of the ground station, and an embedded system control which is part of the body.”The controller is used to move the body up, down or rotate over the coconut tree trunk. It also positions the robotic arm when the body ascends to the optimum height of the tree to cut the coconut bunches, leaves etc. A camera is attached to the body at times to stream the video of the coconut tree top to the ground station for the user to better understand the structure and the position of the coconut bunches,” explained Megalingam.An Android based app developed at HuT Labs can be installed in any smart phone or tablet and can be used to control the robot. Field tests were conducted successfully over 25 coconut trees and a commercial model for Amaran is expected to be ready by the end of 2017. A patent has already been filed for the design and is expected to be granted any time soon.