Robotic 'farmer' begins trials in the Peak District
23 February 2016
The IBEX project has begun fully autonomous trials of its extreme mobility agricultural robot, which will drive itself around farms identifying and destroying weeds.
Co-funded by Innovate UK, IBEX robots are targeted at identifying and destroying encroaching weeds on remote hillsides that are uneconomical to spray manually or too dangerous to drive on with a tractor or quad bike, the IBEX autonomous platform is capable of safely traversing slopes up to 45 degrees through mud and thick vegetation, including bracken.
The platform uses tracks to reduce the ground pressure, increasing the range of terrain it can traverse while reducing any damage it may cause with its treads. Onboard sensors provide attitude information to ensure stable operation over all terrain.
Using a combination of sensors and Bayesian machine learning software, IBEX is aware of its surroundings and is designed for certified safe operation. The system is capable of independent navigation, covering a user targeted area by swathing or a more intelligent optimisation of routes. A video and data link is always active, allowing a supervisor to intervene if required or if the control systems determine that user input is necessary.
The initial weed spraying task design incorporates a robot arm for precision spraying. The system is also capable of carrying alternative heavy payloads and pulling agricultural implements to perform further farm tasks, and is designed to operate for up to a day away from its operating base.
IBEX will be cost about the same as an all-terrain vehicle, being affordable to farmers, including those in developing countries, with inexpensive operation and readily available spares and consumables.
IBEX is a consortium of SMEs who together design and build advanced agricultural robotics, co-funded by Innovate UK's AgriTech Catalyst on behalf of DEFRA, as a Feasibility Study. The IBEX consortium includes Hunshelf Hall Farm and companies, G32 Technologies and Digital Concepts Engineering.