Auburn Engineers Develop Tennis Ball Collection Robot
Tom Spendlove posted on May 08, 2018 |
Tennibot is billed as the world's first robotic tennis ball collector.

Haitham Eletrabi is an engineer who loves tennis. A few years ago while working with a ball machine he felt like more time was spent chasing after balls than actually playing tennis. After a quick survey of the ball collecting options available he felt unsatisfied and went to work on his own design. The Tennibot is billed as ‘the world’s first robotic tennis ball collector’ and with a team of engineers and designers Eletrabi is running a crowdfunding campaign to release the machine.

The robot itself is very straightforward, reminding me of the basic style of many FIRST Robotics Competition machines from the last five years. Computer vision allows the robot to move autonomously around the tennis court with two flywheels to intake the balls and deposit them into a bucket. The robot is driven by its two back wheels and features large arms in the front to guide balls in while preventing collisions with fences or nets. The camera allows the robot to see forward and the controller dictates where the machine has already been and what areas might need to be cleared next. A device called the station houses the camera that tracks the Tennibot on a court, positioning the robot and allowing for autonomous mode. An app can also be used to guide the robot to the heaviest concentration of balls. The robot moves at a speed of 1.4 miles per hour and can hold 80 balls at one time, with a footprint of 36 x 16 x 11 inches. The battery is specified at 90 minute charge time and 4-5 hours of use on a charge.

Haitham Eletrabi applied for a patent application for a ‘dual function robot and storage bin in 2016 with application US20160243970A1, and I’ve been surprised today not just by how many patents have been awarded for any size of ball collection methods, but also how many different devices currently exist just for picking up tennis balls. The Tennibot has already passed its funding goal, and the campaign ends on June 8 with first units currently scheduled to ship in January 2019.

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