The Robotriks Traction Unit (RTU) has been designed as a low-cost ‘farm assistant’ with an adjustable chassis structure enabling it to handle a variety of specialist or day-to-day tasks.
Robotics graduates Khaian Marsh and Jake Shaw-Sutton, a senior robotics technician at the University of Plymouth in south-west England, built the RTU prototype using as many mass-produced components as possible to minimise costs.
For example, each of the two drive wheels uses a brushless hub motor from an electric bike and the chassis is constructed from lengths of galvanised scaffold tube.
Since these are clamped rather than welded together, the width and height of the vehicle is readily adjustable, and the chassis can provide different mountings to suit purpose-built or standard field implements.
Text continues underneath video
Both co-founders of Robotriks were brought up on farms so are aware of the practicalities of potential applications for the RTU in agriculture, horticulture and fruit-growing.
It could be used under manual remote control as a load-carrying assistant, ferrying bales and mineral blocks to livestock, for example, or fencing materials and equipment in situations where a heavy vehicle would be inappropriate.
Text continues underneath image
Transporting fruit and vegetables in support of labourers is another potential load-carrying application or the RTU could be programmed to carry out light field tasks autonomously, such as harrowing or topping grass pastures on a livestock farm.
Text continues underneath images
The current prototype, which has speed differential drive-wheel steering and rear castor wheels, is limited to a walking pace of 16kph (10mph).
It can be operated under manual remote control, set up to repeatedly move between two points, sent to a location by tapping on a digital map or operated within fields, orchards and vineyards using an RTK satellite guidance system.
While testing and development continues with funding support from Agri-Tech Cornwall, Cornwall Council, Cornwall Development Company and the European Regional Development Fund, the Robotriks RTU is available for sale to researchers.