This CMU robot can help control the spread of invasive lanternflies

A team from Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU’s) Robotics Institute has developed an autonomous robot, called Tartan Pest, to help control the spread of spotted lanternflies.

Spotted lanternflies are an invasive species of insects known to destroy economically important crops, like grapes, apples, hops, walnuts, and many kinds of hardwoods. In Pennsylvania alone, these insects have the potential to cost the economy $300 million annually.

“Currently, spotted lanternflies are concentrated in the eastern portion of the nation, but they are predicted to spread to the whole country,” Carolyn Alex, an undergraduate researcher on the TartanPest team, said. “By investing in this issue now, we will be saving higher costs in the future.”

A wide view of the TartanPest robot in a field near a sidewalk.
CMU created its TartanPest robot by mounting a robotic arm to the base of an Amiga micro-tractor from Farm-ng. | Source: Carnegie Mellon University

TartanPest uses an all-electric Amiga micro-tractor, created by Farm-ng, a robotic arm, and computer vision to traverse fields and forests while it detects and destroys lanternflies’ egg masses.

Lanternflies lay egg masses, which can contain between 30-50 eggs each, in the fall, typically on trees, rocks, outdoor furniture, and rusty metal surfaces. In the spring, these egg masses hatch, creating a new generation of the insects each year.

TartanPest can identify these egg masses using a deep learning model that was refined on an augmented image set created from 700 images of spotted lanternfly egg masses from iNaturalist. It then uses its robotic arm to scape the masses off surfaces.

CMU’s team of researchers hopes TartanPest can help small farmers and the broader food system to fight these pests and lower the chemical pollution of crops and labor costs.

The team behind TartanPest includes RI students Carolyn Alex, Simi Asher, Dominic Guri, Cole Herber, RuiJi Liu, Shrijit Singh and Srinivasan Vijayarangan. It was advised by Francisco Yandun.

Written by

Brianna Wessling

Brianna Wessling is an Associate Editor, Robotics, WTWH Media. She joined WTWH Media in November 2021, and is a recent graduate from the University of Kansas. She can be reached at