Drones

Fruit-picking drones may be heading for an orchard near you

Fruit-picking drones may be he...
A Tevel FAR drone in apple-picking action
A Tevel FAR drone in apple-picking action
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A Tevel FAR unit makes its way through an apple orchard
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A Tevel FAR unit makes its way through an apple orchard
A Tevel FAR drone in apple-picking action
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A Tevel FAR drone in apple-picking action

According to Israeli startup Tevel Aerobotics, there is a severe shortage of workers available to pick fruit at orchards. That's why the company is developing an alternative, in the form of autonomous flying drones that do the job.

Each of the system's FAR (Flying Autonomous Robots) units consists of a wheeled base vehicle which travels up and down the rows of fruit trees, along with four quadcopter drones that are electrically tethered to that vehicle – it acts as their power source.

Utilizing their onboard cameras and AI-based computer vision algorithms, the drones are reportedly able to differentiate between individual fruits and other objects. They can also assess the size and ripeness of each fruit, plus they're capable of planning a collision-free flight path toward those that are deemed suitable for harvest.

The drones then use an integrated grasper arm – along with special stabilization algorithms – to actually pick the fruits, which they proceed to drop onto the deck of the base vehicle. They can do so throughout the day and night, as long as the base vehicle's battery lasts.

A Tevel FAR unit makes its way through an apple orchard
A Tevel FAR unit makes its way through an apple orchard

Plans call for users to rent fleets of the FARs as needed, letting the company know how many are required, at what time and for how long long. Once the units have been delivered and the picking commences, an app provides a real-time display of factors such as the amount of fruit picked, and the estimated time left in the harvesting process.

The system isn't available for commercial use yet, but will reportedly be utilized later this year in pilot projects at apple orchards in Spain, the US and Italy.

There's more information in the video below.

Tevel Aerobotics Technologies 2022

Source: Tevel Aerobotics Technologies via IEEE Spectrum

5 comments
5 comments
paul314
Like a robotic arm for picking, without the weight of the arm. And good on them using a tethered power source. Maybe also tethered computing?
Eddy
Our orchardists in AU could sure use this invention with the unlikely return of the volume of backpackers needed of late and the refusal of the resident population to do the job. I guess the software could be adjusted so it could pick oranges too and save us plowing so many of them back in the ground.
dan
a robotic arm with a hose for transporting the fruits will do the job far simpler and cheaper. no business case for drones, neither competitive nor eco-friendly.
guzmanchinky
Well that might totally disrupt the current labor situation in California (and elsewhere). Robots will eventually do everything that manual labor does now. Not sure where that leaves us unless we have far fewer people...
Vobomex
lets just completely over use energy to pick fruit!!? you want to keep drones in the air for single apples? ffs