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Swarm robotics pitched as future of farming


Swarm robots have been suggested as being the future of agricultural robotics and automation, but in a recent report, AHDB’s Harry Henderson warned that a number of technical issues still need to be overcome before the technology is commercially viable.

He cited a presentation by Dr Alan Millard of the University of Plymouth who believes that such robots face four key challenges:

  1. Communication networks. Dr Millard asked if Bluetooth connectivity is sufficient for field environments and asked if 5G networks will be required. If so, will they be sufficiently robust and reliable?
  2. The capacity to make decisions. Will robots be able to sense crop problems and identify and apply a solutions based on the parameters set by growers and agronomists as they work across a field?
  3. Public acceptance. How will consumers feel about the fact that decisions on key food and environmental factors are being made by robots?
  4. What is the business model for the rollout of the technology? Who owns, maintains and repairs the robots and owns or has access to the data that the robots collect?

Some of these concerns were also echoed by Mark Nicholson, senior lecturer in systems safety at the University of York. He also asked, in the event of an accident or injury, who is liable: the owner of the technology, the operator, or the supplier?


Photo caption: The Small Robot Company believes that swarm robots are the future of on-farm automation

Photo Credit: Small Robot Company