Recently came across a new development in robotic drones which, TBH, I am really, really skeptical about after watching the video. The new development is known as Fruit-picking Flying Autonomous Robots by Israel tech outfit, Tevel Aerobotics.
The Fruit-picking Flying Autonomous Robots are exactly what they say they are. They are essentially quadrotor drones designed to identify the fruit and analyze the color to determine the ripeness, before plucking it from the tree with its suction arm.
It has a powerful objection recognition technology that will allow it to differentiate the fruit it is supposed to pick and other objects like leaves and whatnot.
Don’t expect a sci-fi scenario of swarming drones flying out of a harvesting HQ and starting to pick the fruits.
In reality, this flying fruit picker system is more like a harvester machine that moves in between rows of fruit and tethered (yes, tethered) to it are multiple drones that go out to pick the fruits and deposit them on the harvester.
Not as sci-fi as I imagined it to be but it is sci-fi enough. BUT, is it really the future?
California-based HMC Farms have seen successful deployment of the system that it uses to harvest peaches, apples, nectarines, and plums – in addition to human labor.
In a promo video posted by Tevel Aerobotics is representative, we can see that individual drones approach the tree, identify the fruit and determine if it is ripe for the picking, and then proceed to pluck it from the branches if the fruit is ripe.
I am not sure if I am seeing it right but it appears to be a rather slow process. I don’t believe it will be any faster than a trained worker. I mean, I’d imagine a worker has a basket where he or she can quickly drop the fruits without having to go back and forth.
Plus, an experienced worker would need seconds to know exactly if a fruit is ripe for the picking.
That is not to say automation has no advantages. It has many (advantages), including solving the problem of labor shortages, increasing labor costs, the ability to work regardless of the weather (unless it is too extreme) and it can work round the clock without unions coming after your orchard.
With this system, orchard owners will also be able to know how much has been harvested in real time.
I remain skeptical for reasons I have mentioned before. Perhaps I am being a little short-sighted here. Anyhoo, it is just a start and it is too early to judge.
Images: Tevel Aerobotics.