An Italian technology company has showcased a revolutionary autonomous field robot at the International Horticultural Expo 2023 Doha Qatar, including its versatile applications beyond agriculture.
Professor Lorenzo Marconi of the University of Bologna, who is co-founder of FieldRobotics, presented the ‘HammerHead’, an autonomous ground rover vehicle designed for agricultural applications in orchards, vineyards, and even in remote environments with poor GPS signals.
“The HammerHead is like a small tractor, where we could attach, plug any kind of conventional or even futuristic implements aimed at bringing robotics and industrial automation into the field, and not only in indoor settings,” Marconi told Gulf Times.
Marconi explained that the idea is to bring indoor automation utilised in industrial, logistics, and manufacturing settings, among others, to outdoor applications. “And so we put a lot of emphasis and attempts in creating a platform that is reliable, robust, and attractive to enable all these technologies outdoors,” Marconi said.
According to Marconi, the HammerHead is equipped with AI algorithms, cameras, laser scanners, and sensor fusion for robust environmental mapping and precise autonomous navigation, further describing it as a “perfect example of a mechatronics system.”
He noted that one of the advantages of the HammerHead is FieldRobotics’ focus on smaller, distributed robotic solutions rather than larger, single vehicles, reducing environmental impact and increasing efficiency.
Instead of making larger tractors, Marconi said deploying teams of HammerHeads reduces soil compaction by spreading the load over a larger area using multiple small robots.
He also emphasised that the electric, emissions-free design makes the HammerHead suitable for greenhouse operations and aligns with sustainability goals. “It offers a flexible, open platform like a ‘power bank in the field’ that can accommodate future robotic implements and technologies,” Marconi said.
Asked about the HammerHead’s other potential uses, especially in Qatar’s hydrocarbon industry, Marconi also explained that the innovative robot, while designed for agriculture, can also have immense potential in sectors like oil and gas, logistics, military, and search/rescue operations. Its autonomous capabilities, high payload, and remote operation can also be utilised in hazardous environments that pose a safety risk for humans, he stressed.
“We are also trying to push the idea of ‘cobotics’ and human-robot interaction, where humans have a central role in the task and not necessarily all the robots. And then, of course, in terms of search and rescue, which is not by chance; this idea of field robotics started in the search and rescue setting.
“I was the coordinator of a few big European projects in the past dealing with search and rescue, and so again, field settings, settings that are hostile and unfriendly, and with a certain kind of features that ask for new technologies to be robust and industrial,” Marconi stressed.
Related Story