New-and-improved agri-robot hits the vineyards
Back in 2015, we heard about a prototype vineyard-monitoring robot known appropriately enough as VineRobot. Now, its successor has been unveiled in Portugal. Developed via a European Union research consortium, it's called VineScout.
The idea behind both robots is that they can autonomously move up and down the rows of a vineyard, checking the wellbeing and harvest-readiness of the grapes.
Managed by an improved artificial intelligence system, VineScout utilizes input from a 3D stereoscopic machine vision system, LiDAR (light detection and ranging) and ultrasound sensors to follow the rows without running into anything, and to turn around and move over when changing from one row to another. Additionally, unlike VineRobot, it can operate day or night, gathering over 3,000 pieces of data per hour.
As it moves along on its four knobby-tired wheels, VineScout uses an infrared sensor and a multispectral camera to respectively measure the temperature of plants' leaves and the amount of water contained within the plants. This data is displayed in the form of a crop map that lets growers know if the plants are getting enough water, along with their current level of maturity and robustness.
Other upgrades include a more compact and agile form factor, better protection against the outdoor environment, and lightweight interchangeable lithium batteries that are augmented by solar panels.
Partners in the VineScout project include Valencia's Polytechnic University, the Universidad de La Rioja (Spain), French company Wall-Ye SARL, Britain's Sundance Multiprocessor Technology Ltd, and Portugal's Symington Family Estates.