Unmanned Systems Technology 022 | XOcean XO-450 l Radar systems l Space vehicles insight l Small Robot l BMPower FCPS l Prismatic HALE UAV l InterDrone 2018 show report l UpVision l Navigation systems

50 P recision agriculture is an important area for autonomous systems. UAVs with hyperspectral cameras are used to monitor crops from the air, existing tractors have been retrofitted with autonomous controls, and completely new unmanned tractors have been designed for the needs of farms in the future. Weeding robots can travel up and down rows of crops to cut, burn or even stamp on weeds. However, Small Robot, an agri-tech start-up based in Portsmouth in the south of England, argues that to deliver precision agriculture on a plant-by-plant basis requires a change in the model of delivery, which in turn determines the architecture of the autonomous systems. This is very different from making existing systems more efficient with autonomous technology. The fundamental business challenge here is the cost of the autonomous systems. Small Robot wants to make precision agriculture available to as many farmers as possible, and that requires a new way of providing the technology. The costs of farming have gone up by more than 85% over the past 25 years, says Ben Scott-Robinson, CEO of Small Robot, but crop yields and the money coming out of farms have stayed largely the same. Farmers can’t afford to take risks, so the company has developed ‘farming as a service’ as a way to help them adopt the technology with minimal risk. With farming as a service, instead of buying a robot, the farmer simply Nick Flaherty talks to two key figures at The Small Robot Company about their systems for precision agriculture Farmers’ market A small, light system called Tom is designed to move across a field, monitoring crop health quickly and accurately (Photos courtesy of Small Robot Company) October/November 2018 | Unmanned Systems Technology