Australian geeks design a cowrobot that goes anywhere.
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.
Looking like an alien spider, the Swagbot is Australia’s attempt to replace costly cowboys with a cheap robot.