Aus­tralian geeks de­sign a cowrobot that goes any­where.

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - ALWYN VILJOEN

THE Aus­tralian Cen­tre for Field Ro­bot­ics, in con­junc­tion with the Univer­sity of Sydney, has mated a drone to a moon buggy to cre­ate the SwagBot. It is an all ter­rain ro­bot that can do any­thing the cow­boys did on Broke­back Moun­tain, ex­cept pro­vide com­pan­ion­ship.

The last warn­ing is from the pro­mo­tional video, which aims to sell the Swagbot to ranch­ers work­ing the vast farms in Aus­tralia’s out­back,

Leader of the project, Salah Sukkarieh, said a trial that be­gan in June has con­firmed that SwagBot is able to herd cat­tle and can nav­i­gate its way around ditches, logs, swamps and other fea­tures of a typ­i­cal farm land­scape.

He said the trial has been very suc­cess­ful so far, and the team is ready to move to the next phase, which is to de­velop al­go­rithms that can mon­i­tor the health of stock and check the progress of plants and lo­cate weeds.

Dur­ing the trails, the all-ter­rain ro­bot proved it could: • tow any wheeled equip­ment on the farm, thanks to in­de­pen­dent trac­tion on all four wheels; • sur­mount high ob­sta­cles, thanks to the in­de­pen­dently driven wheels that ad­just them­selves and ro­tate for the best di­rec­tion that is suit­able for the path; and • mon­i­tor an­i­mals.

Like a drone, the op­er­a­tor gives the ro­bot a tar­get des­ti­na­tion and then lets it get on with it.

Its bat­tery is good for a few hours and it can reach speeds of 19 km/h, climb­ing with spi­der­like legs over logs and cross­ing creeks.

There are no prices yet and spec­i­fi­ca­tions are likely to change should this project ever get to large-scale pro­duc­tion mod­els, but Sukkarieh said the pric­ing for the all-ter­rain ro­bot is in­tended to be low-cost.

PHOTO: YOUTUBE

Look­ing like an alien spi­der, the Swagbot is Aus­tralia’s at­tempt to re­place costly cow­boys with a cheap ro­bot.

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