Autonomous vehicle launched for sustainable production

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Autonomous modular vehicle platform for agriculture automates a variety of tree crop tasks, including intelligent spraying to improve efficiency and alleviate labour challenges.

Bay of Plenty-based agritech company Robotics Plus has launched Prospr, an autonomous, multi-use, hybrid vehicle designed to carry out a variety of orchard and vineyard crop tasks more efficiently and sustainably while reducing reliance on labour.

Prospr is now commercially available from Robotics Plus, a specialist in the design and build of innovative agricultural robotics.

Prospr accommodates multiple swappable tools being developed, including newly released tower sprayers for grapes, apples, or tree crops. The right tool for the job is attached to the vehicle depending on the day’s work, and multiple Prosprs can collaborate in a fleet to get the job done.

The autonomous vehicle uses a combination of perception systems to sense the environment, enabling data-driven insights.

Robotics Plus will showcase Prospr for the first time at FIRA 2023 this week, a California-based event dedicated to autonomous agriculture and agricultural robotics solutions.

Steve Saunders, co-founder and chief executive at Robotics Plus says the agriculture industry faces unprecedented challenges as this generation works to produce more food sustainably while reducing emissions and supplying at a lower cost.

Robotics Plus founders Steve Saunders (CEO) and Dr Alistair Scarfe (Chief Engineering Officer)

“Prospr is a robust autonomous vehicle, with all-day running, that adapts to the jobs growers need to do while reducing emissions, inputs and reliance on increasingly hard-to-find machine operators. We’ve focused on utilisation and flexibility with a unique modular architecture, allowing different tools for various crop types and applications year-round to maximise return on investment.

“It’s great to be back at FIRA to launch Prospr, with the first vehicles rolling out to customers this month. It’s a fantastic milestone for the passionate and dedicated Robotics Plus team.”

Dr. Alistair Scarfe, co-founder and Chief Engineering Officer at Robotics Plus, says, “We’ve made multiple technology advances for Prospr, including a remodelled platform for tools, new spraying attachments, and a new user interface to aid management and planning.

We’ve also improved machine connectivity, control, safety and localisation. Prospr has its own wireless network, keeping vehicles online and enabling software updates for new features. We’re really proud to release another world-leading robotic innovation to market, thanks to the expertise of our outstanding team and partners.”

Hybrid System

Prospr has an all-electric drive system for superior torque and control. Its onboard power generation, with a Tier 4 diesel generator, allows the vehicle to operate for extended periods without charging or refuelling.

Regenerative braking and high-capacity batteries extend range whilst its intelligent all-wheel-drive system with independent wheel motors gives superior manoeuvrability, grip and control.

Dr. Scarfe adds, “We’ve put our hybrid power and drive system through its paces and can achieve over 70% reduction in fuel consumption when compared to traditional diesel tractors doing the same job.”

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