Tree Traversing Robot

Forestry is a major export industry, but workers face some of the highest risks of injury and fatality. Felling trees is potentially dangerous, and the terrain is often steep and difficult. To provide a long term solution we have designed, built and developed a tree-traversing robot that can move through plantation forests by gripping trees rather than the usual wheeled vehicles that also cause soil damage. The fully functional remote-controlled tree-traversing robot, at a quarter scale of the final size, is the first of its kind in the world.

From 2013 to 2015 UC Mechanical and Mechatronics students and researchers were working with Scion scientists to develop a tree traversing robot. The robot was designed to traverse between trees without touching the ground, especially for NZ’s steep land forests, making harvesting trees safer. The proof of concept was funded by Scion and FFR.

The first prototype was built to a quarter of the scale and its design was nationally recognized and awarded the IPENZ Ray Meyer Medal in 2014. Read more on

  • Meaclem, C.V., Chen, XQ., Gutschmidt, S., Hann, C. and Parker, R. (2015) K-means Partitioned Space Path Planning (KPSPP) for Autonomous Robotic Harvesting. International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems 12(165): 10pp.
  • Meaclem CV, Gutschmidt S, Chen XQ, Parker R. (2015) IEEE Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics, Zhuhai, China, 06 Dec 2015 - 09 Dec 2015.
  • Kolb A, Meaclem CV, Chen XQ, Parker R, Gutschmidt S. (2015) 10th IEEE Conference on Industrial Electronics and Applications (ICIEA 2015), Auckland, New Zealand, 15 Jun 2015 - 17 Jun 2015.
  • Meaclem CV, Shao L, Parker R, Gutschmidt S, Hann CE, Milne BJE, Chen X. (2014) 2014 IEEE International Conference on Automation Science and Engineering, Taipei, Taiwan, 18 Aug 2014 - 22 Aug 2014.

Cutting Device

In 2014 we took the project further to design, build and implement a cutting device, with which to cut down trees remotely and therefore safely. The trunk-gripping mechanism allows the robot to rotate around the tree and to accurately grasp any other trunk within its maximum reach in any direction. The aim of this work is to develop and produce a lightweight machine which retains the ability to cut down standing Pinus radiate trees and keep the operator a safe distance from the tree.

The project was dreamed up 10 years ago by Dr Richard Parker, a senior scientist at Scion. Dr Parker specialises in forest harvesting and rural fire fighting, as well as ergonomics and human factors of dangerous and demanding tasks. He is also involved in forest teleoperation and robotics research, aimed at removing workers from high risk situations.

The Team

See all Gutschmidt's Research Activities