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AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS alternative vision is still in its infancy, but the direction of development is clear. There are already

hundreds ofmobile agricultural robots in existence.With the exception of 50 or so small-sized ones,most are, however, still in the research or semi-commercial trial stage. The costs are currently high too,mostly because

 The DV Wing drone has 18.2 MP sensors and can obtain aerial imagery for photogrammetry, map analysis and measurement

suchmobile robots requiremultiple sensors to provide safety and autonomy even in the absence of GPS signals. The early evidence is that farmers do not yet trust themand indeed are not willing to pay extra. Thismeans that somemodels are being stripped down to the bareminimumrequired with seemingly simple features such as even end-of-row navigation in orchards removed.

TECHNOLOGY IMMATURITY Themachines are still not completely reliable despite the technology being ready and accessible at the discrete component and software level. All this is predicted to change in the coming decade. Thus far, only a few field trials have taken place and here the experimental clock is inevitably limited by harvest seasons, further slowing down the adoption process. Asparagus is one of themost expensive vegetables

in Europe because harvesters have to painstakingly pierce each individual stalk. Engineers at the Bremen Centre forMechatronics (BCM) are developing a robot that could change this. It works with harvesting tools, which run on precision rails from HepcoMotion, a linear guidance systems specialist. Asparagus has been steadily growing in popularity

among British consumers, yet for the farmers it means springtime stress. This is because they have to harvest enormous quantities in such a short time – in 2015, according to the Federal Bureau for Statistics, it was 112,100 tons (101,695 tonnes).Work in the fields is arduous and workers have to cut through each individual stalk. The green asparagus harvesting robotic system

project (Garotics) is developing a robot for green asparagus. BCM, the packagingmachine manufacturer Strauss fromBuxtehude, and the

British agricultural company CWright & Son are involved. The basis of the robot is a chassis with four wheels

and front-wheel drive. Between the front wheels there is a camera systeminstalled, which films the green asparagus stems as it goes past.Unlike white asparagus, green asparagus grows above the ground. Photographic processing software then identifies stalks that are ripe for harvesting. “One of the challenges was to implement image processing which can differentiate the different stages of growth,” says Strauss design engineer Sebastian Allers. Linear guide rails allow exact positioning of the

harvesting tool. Software then guides the coordinates of the ripe samples further to the tool head, which is mounted under a hardened, stainless steel precision- cut linear guide rail. It can travel across the full vehicle width on a timing-belt-driven carriage.

DRONES FOR AGRICULTURE FrenchmanufacturerDrone Volt is a company expanding the use of drones in agriculture. TheDV Wing drone is dedicated to precision agriculture and construction work. The French dronemarket for precision agriculture andmapping is estimated at around €50mout to 2025, according to global management consultancy, OliverWyman. On a global scale, themarket potential for commercial drones servicing infrastructure, agriculture and mining operations is estimated at $81bn between now and 2020 (source: PwC Survey –May 2016). TheDVWing is a fixed-wing drone equipped with

an 18.2MP sensor and uses algorithms enabling it to obtain aerial imagery and accurate data formissions such as photogrammetry,map analysis for farming areas and forests, andmeasurements for road construction. It can also be used by quarry and mining operators tomeasure volumes. The data it collects can be used by farmers to

establish accurate diagnostics for the treatment of crops and themanagement of pesticide use. Compact and light at just 940g, theDVWing is

easy to use and can be launched by hand. It has enough battery power to fly for 85minutes and the on-board sensor can capture very high-resolution images and highly accurate ortho-photos. EE


Key Enabling Technologies

Current Status MediumTermStatus

Long TermStatus (>10 years)

Current Key Players Today

Manned tractor Tractor Guidance Manned Autosteer Tractor Master-slave or Follow-me Tractor Fully Autonomous Driverless Tractor No Guidance


GPS relying on SF1, RTK GPS SF2 or EGNOS signals

Old and Existing ExistingMainstream Existing technology with Technology

Technology Basic, Given Basic, Given Given Given Mainstream Given

RTK-GPS plus strong radio links between tractors

Prototypes and early

large uptake and becoming commercial trials mainstream

Limited sales in large professional

fleets operating large field crop farms

Mainstreamin large professional fleets operating large field crop farms

All tractor firms Nearly all themajor Nearly all themajor tractor AGCO (Fendt), Yanmar, Kinze, tractor firms

firms, including ACO and John Deere

Case IH (CNH Industrial) February 2017 /// Environmental Engineering /// 17

Limited sales for large fleet operators with expert central controls/supervision

teams. Still out of themarket for small individual or family farmers

ACT, Kubota Commercial trials This could use a variety of sensors,

including LIDAR, Radar, Sonar, RTK and in-field sensors

Early-stage prototypes


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