The small autonomous self-propelled vehicles in agriculture and horticulture offer perspective. This in the search for labour savings and reduction of soil compaction and in perspective for intercropping. The use of robots and drones in agriculture and horticulture is starting to take off, both nationally and internationally. The IDTechEx Research report on “Agricultural Robots and Drones 2016-2026: Technologies, Markets, and Players” indicates an expected market development from $3 billion in 2016 to $10 billion in 2022.
By making use of electric energy for these vehicles and the use of smart energy storage, this development also contributes to the energy transition in agriculture. Through the use of renewable energies such as solar panels and wind turbines, opportunities arise for smart grid and off grid systems.
There are still many bottlenecks for a large-scale application of these vehicles in agricultural practice. Issues include:
- How can autonomous vehicles move with a drive train system that takes into account different weather and soil conditions?
- Designing communication between different autonomous vehicles;
- Developing a flexible battery management concept. A concept in which multiple vehicles can use multiple power sources and this can be integrated into a Smart Grid system at farm level.
The goal for this work package is the development and practical demonstration of an autonomous swarming robot prototype that can be equipped with various tools for agricultural applications. It uses new communication technology between vehicles, smart drive train systems that respond to field conditions and energy supply based on Smart Grid solutions.
Within Eindhoven University of Technology and the associated companies, a lot of experience has already been gained through the development of the @M-Trac. This is a Multi-tool two-wheel tractor for farm automation. Demonstration prototype versions of this @M-Trac are available. The @M-trac forms a beautiful basis on which this work package will be built.
Design principles and developed technologies can be translated as needed into one or more platforms that can be used in arable farming, for example communication between vehicles, battery drive train and smart grid solutions.