Project: Swarms of robots in agricultural fields for division of labour

Description: Robotics is expected to play a major role in agriculture, and multi-robot systems and collaborative approaches can constitute potential solutions to improve efficiency of agricultural operations and processes. This field of research is called swarm robotics, and it is about coordinating multiple robots as a unified system, which consists of large numbers of individual physical robots. It is supposed that a desired collective behavior emerges from the interactions between the robots, as well as from the interactions of robots with the environment. Swarms of robots tackle challenges of flexibility, scalability and robustness in solving complex tasks related to precision farming. An important problem of robotic swarms is how to dynamically divide some agricultural field and split the operations needed to be performed, which can be weed detection, seeding, estimation of crop yield and others. The goal here is to find a dynamic solution for the division of labour among robots, independently of the structure of the agricultural field. Relevant performance metrics include the overall time to finish the job, the least energy consumed by the robots (i.e. avoiding overlaps in trajectories) and the coverage of the whole field (i.e. coverage ratio). Robots can be either ground robots or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)/drones. The agricultural settings/topologies used during the simulations, as well as the ground/aerial coverage path planning tasks are listed here.

Collaboration with: Nicolo Botteghi (Robotics and Mechatronics Group, University of Twente, Netherlands), Beril Sirmacek (Jönköping University, Sweden)

Techniques used: Geospatial analysis, GIS, Internet of Things, big data analysis, modelling, simulations..

Started: Jan. 2020

Status: Finished

Jochem Postmes, Nicolò Botteghi, Beril Sirmacek and Andreas Kamilaris, A System for Efficient Path Planning and Target Assignment for Robotic Swarms in Agriculture, Proc. of the 11th International Conference on the Internet of Things (IoT 2021), St. Gallen, Switzerland, November, 2021.

Nicolò Botteghi and Andreas Kamilaris, Lior Sinai and Beril Sirmacek, Multi-Agent Path Planning of Robotic Swarms in Agricultural Fields, XXIVth International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) Congress, June 2020. (Online event)

Outcomes: Open-source code for agtech, allowing farmers and developers to use various popular path planning algorithms to find the best solution for a swarm of agents (drones and/or ground robots) to cover an agricultural field for a range of operations (e.g. pruning, spraying, monitoring, crop collection, etc.).