Unmanned Systems Technology 038 l Skyeton Raybird-3 l Data storage l Sea-Kit X-Class USV l USVs insight l Spectronik PEM fuel cells l Blue White Robotics UVIO l Antennas l AUVSI Xponential Virtual 2021 report

75 Blue White Robotics Platform | In operation Ascher explains. “That computer audits the information to confirm if an obstacle is indeed an obstacle, or if an alert for an engine failure is really happening. Where needed, the system triggers a halt, a course adjustment or a notification to the operator.” Again, context is key to how the tractor will react. If an orchard branch is detected in front of the tractor, some growers will prefer the tractor to drive straight over it, but others will prefer it to be avoided and preserved; Blue White will adjust its (patent-pending) algorithms to match these preferences. When the tractors exit the end of each row, and turn 180 º into the next, a clear view of the sky is typically available. The GNSS link can thus be re-established and the high-level computer can re- localise the tractor to validate that it is at the correct waypoint (meaning the IMU drift can be reset to zero). “The dual computer system is designed around reliability in real-time control, with dedicated electronics cards and PCBs to make sure perception data and controls are processed to precise measurements and timings,” Ascher says. “The system layout is based on an architecture used in aviation, where you have a control computer and a mission computer as the low and high ends of large aircraft autopilot systems. “We’d like to carry out synchronisations and adjustments between different vehicles over the cloud, but with the limited connectivity and frequent GNSS outages you get on farms it’s critical that we embed as much intelligence as possible on board each tractor to minimise any risks to the grower’s assets.” Each tractor will continue its work until its task is done, or until sensors in its fuel tank or spray tank indicate the need for refilling. After/between missions Farmers have no standard approach for autonomously refuelling or refilling a tank of herbicide or fertiliser; Fine says each one effectively has a different arrangement for how trailers are topped up. “Some have a giant refilling station where they refill everything, so we might program all the tractors with routes to drive and park there for replenishing their chemical sprays; others have what’s called a nursing tank, which is a tanker vehicle that goes out into the fields and refills tractor sprayers there,” Fine says. “No matter what the arrangement is though, what we’re really looking for is how to use our autonomy with their systems to make refilling – and hence continuous farming – as efficient as possible, with as few machines and vehicles as possible.” Most of the actual refuelling and refilling actions are performed manually however. While many of these can be automated using COTS technologies, agriculture regulations often require that this aspect of maintenance be performed by qualified personnel, as it involves handling hazardous chemicals. “While this and other maintenance tasks can be automated and monitored through our technology, the first step for savings today in agriculture are already achieved by precisely automating the driving,” Ascher says. “And for the most part, farms already have long-established concepts of operations for inspecting their vehicles and equipment, and performing cleaning, repairs and so on. We don’t want to be invasive, automate too much too quickly or try to eliminate a bunch of mechanics’ jobs, we want to create the 21st-century farmer.” Future plans With several successful use-cases carried out in the US and Israel, Blue White Robotics is looking at having thousands of vehicles integrated with its Platform and deployed on farms within the next few years. In addition to automating tractors, the company is also using UAVs in agricultural survey, spraying and pollination duties to further enhance the productivity of autonomous farms in the future. Unmanned Systems Technology | June/July 2021 Refuelling the tractor and refilling its attachments must typically be done manually because of safety regulations, although automation is technically possible