AI News, Yamaha Demos Agricultural RoboCopter, But Humans Can't Unleash It Yet

Yamaha Demos Agricultural RoboCopter, But Humans Can't Unleash It Yet

It’s complex and expensive, but the company is making a case that it’s the most efficient and cost effective way to treat high value crops, especially with an eye towards autonomy.

When we say that the RMAX can’t be“unleashed” yet, we’re talking about autonomy, or the lack thereof.Currently, the helicopter communicates via a radio link to a controller operated by a human, and it is unable to fly autonomously.

We can do it, but since the pilot is flying the drone while standing in one spot, they’ve got just one viewpoint on what’s going on, which makes it difficult to fly a spraying pattern without building in a lot of needless overlap, wasting both time and money and adding more chemicals that necessary.

Second, these drones aren’t messing around: they’re very large, very scary vehicles, and are difficult to control (even with practice) due to both the inherent instability of all helicoptersand the fact that while the controls of a helicopter operate from its perspective, a remote pilot has to mentally compensate for any angles of yaw whenever the helicopter isn’t facing directly away from them.So,if something goes wrong (mechanical failure, gust of wind, bird strike), an autonomous system will likely be better suited to getting the drone back down to the ground safely.

With an autonomous system, on the other hand, you could likely reduce that to one person: a safety pilot who could manage the hardware aspects, and then stand by to take over manual control if it ever became necessary.

UC Davis is actively working towards autonomy for things like spot spraying, where the drone sprays only in the very specific areas of a vineyard that need it, identified from (say) multispectral aerial maps.

Another cool thing that you could do with an autonomous helicopter is to identify areas in a vineyard susceptible to freezing at night, and then send in the helicopter to use its rotor wash to keep the plants moving and thawed out.

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