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Agricultural robot fully autonomous independent of the GPS signal

Summary

Profile Type
Technology offer
POD Reference
TOES20220526012
Term of Validity
26 May 2022 - 25 May 2024
Company's Country
Spain
Type of partnership
Commercial agreement with technical assistance
Targeted Countries
All countries
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General information

Short Summary
A Spanish university research team specialised in agricultural automation has developed a method, a system and a robot enabling fully autonomous navigation through rows of plants or trees, such as vineyards. It is based on a set of built-in sensors that define and navigate a bi-dimensional grid, which makes the robot capable of operating without human interaction, avoiding obstacles and collisions, with no need of relying on GPS guidance. They offer license and technical cooperation
Full Description
Autonomous navigation through agronomic terrains represents an enormous challenge due to the great variability of the operating conditions. The available technologies have traditionally trusted GPS-based autonomous guidance and many developments have been achieved in this area so far. However, the GPS-based autonomous guidance presents important problems when it is applied in agronomic environments with dense or tall vegetation, such as speciality crops canopies or inside greenhouses. The limitations of GPS-based solutions in agricultural environments derivates mainly from the uncertain or discontinued reception of the GPS signal in some locations, multipath errors and from the lack of detection of objects under complex, dynamic and uncontrolled scenarios, such as the presence of structures, unattended canopies, farmers, tools, branches, boxes, etc.

The present invention provides a method, a system and a complete robot for the autonomous navigation through rows of plants or trees grown on vertical trellises, such as vineyards or orchard-type plantations. This new system is based on the combined use of local perception sensors. Three sensing devices are incorporated into the robot’s front. Two of them allow the system to define and navigate a bi-dimensional grid (Image 1). This makes the robot capable of operating without human interaction. The system allows the robot to keep on moving from one row to another, and also to avoid obstacles that may appear on the path (Image 2).

The system was developed by a Spanish university research team specialised in robotics and the automation of agricultural equipment. It is the result of an H2020 / Fast Track to Innovation granted project. The navigation system has been implemented in a robot whose main objective is collecting crop and environmental data from the plantations to assess plant water status. A fully functional prototype has been tested under real conditions in vineyards placed in Spain and Portugal (Image 3). The input signal and the actual path travelled by the robot can be compared (Image 4).

The prototype was able to navigate the crops indistinctly during day and night while collecting data related to hydric and thermal stress. During the trials, it operated for 3 days with no battery recharging, so it may well work non-stop during 12-hour sessions, and under ambient temperatures over 30ºC.

Further agricultural applications are possible, i.e. the automation of crop harvesting, the provision of agricultural formulations (plant protection, biostimulants, plant nutrition), as well as the clearance or maintenance of plantations, by integrating the navigation system in other autonomous or semiautonomous agricultural equipment, such as medium-size orchard harvesters, weed removal machinery or plant sprayers.

The technology was specifically developed for agricultural environments characterised by tall rows of plants, such as vineyards. Therefore, although not tested yet, it may be applicable to other similarly-shaped working environments, such as big logistic areas or warehouses made up of relatively tall aisles.

The prototype robot devised to capture hydric and thermal stress data is a turnkey solution, which is ready for a technology transfer through a license agreement. Anyway, the research team will also provide technical cooperation if required by the licensee.

For the development of further applications (crop harvesting, plantation maintenance, plant care, etc), the research team offers a technical cooperation agreement.

The type of partner sought in any case is an agricultural automation machinery/equipment developer or constructor, a field robotics builder or a farm machinery manufacturer.

A European patent application was submitted in July 2020 to protect the whole method, system and robot. Public demonstrations of the prototype have been conducted and media material has been released to show the technology working in real operations.
Advantages and Innovations
The use of this invention allows a completely new approach to agricultural automatization providing multiple benefits:

- Fully autonomous system.
- Complete independence of GPS signal, opening the door to automation on crops where GPS technology was not an option on a regular basis.
- Accuracy on path-tracking.
- Real-time path corrections to avoid collisions.
- Reliable under ever-changing environmental conditions.
- Complementary to other GPS-based navigation solutions already in place.
- The technology may be applicable to other similar-shaped working environments, such as big logistic areas, or warehouses made up of relatively tall aisles.
Stage of Development
Available for demonstration
Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGoal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Partner Sought

Expected Role of a Partner
Licensing:

- Type of partner sought: agricultural automation machinery/equipment developers or constructors, field robotics builders, farm machinery manufacturers.

- End-users: large-scale vineyards / plantations owners / cooperatives / farmers associations / data-driven service providers / agrochemical producers.

- Role of the partner sought: the research team looks for a partner interested in the commercial exploitation of the presented invention. The ideal scenario would be to reach an agreement in order to transfer the technology by a license (exclusive or non-exclusive) of the patented procedure, or a co-development. However, the form, terms, and conditions of the collaboration can be openly discussed if the technology is of interest.

Technical cooperation:

- Type of partner sought: agricultural automation machinery/ equipment developers or constructors, field robotics builders, farm machinery manufacturers.

- End-users: large-scale vineyards / plantations owners / data-driven service providers. Operators of large logistic areas.

- Role of the partner sought: the cooperation leading to the integration of the system in existing agricultural equipment or to the co-development of new ones will be conducted under a technical cooperation agreement.
Type and Size of Partner
Big companySME 11-49OtherSME 50 - 249SME <=10
Type of partnership
Commercial agreement with technical assistance

Call details

Coordinator required
Yes

Dissemination

Technology keywords
01001001 - Automation, Robotics Control Systems07001007 - Precision agriculture01004007 - GIS Geographical Information Systems07001001 - Agriculture Machinery / Technology01003012 - Imaging, Image Processing, Pattern Recognition
Market keywords
02004004 - Other scanning related (incl. image processing, ...)08002007 - Other industrial automation08002004 - Robotics09005 - Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Animal Husbandry & Related Products08002005 - Machine vision software and systems
Sector Groups Involved
Agri-FoodDigital
Targeted countries
All countries

Images