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Hands Free Farm - kick-starting safe autonomous agricultural vehicles

13 October, 2021
Hands Free Farm preparing for first crop drilling
Hands Free Farm preparing for first crop drilling

Hands Free Farm’s 35 hectare plot uses automated machines to grow, tend & harvest crops autonomously, without operators in the driving seats or agronomists on the ground. But what of safety and security?

While the advancement of autonomous farm vehicles offers new economic and environmental benefits, their future growth also presents the new challenge of ensuring unmanned machines pose no risk to farmers, and members of the public crossing their land. To ensure the rate of adoption can keep pace with the rate of innovation, the safety, security and reliability of new technologies must be guaranteed.

High-tech, high-value equipment and machinery must also be secure against the threat of theft and tampering, while the GPS systems and other software is at risk of cyber attack and data breaches.

The problems being solved by Hands Free Farm in agricultural and farming automation are equally applicable to automation in many other sectors. Practitioners of AI/ML, robotics, IoT and many more areas of STEM will find the worlds only fully autonomous farm of great interest.

Agri-EPI Centre, in partnership with the world renowned Hands Free Farm, ran a virtual Hackathon event in September to address the safety and security challenges of autonomous vehicles and drones in agriculture.

Enhancing the safety & security of autonomous agricultural vehicles was the core focus of this year’s Agri-EPI Centre Hackathon. This spans a range of technological hazards such as collision avoidance, human supervision and detecting both humans and animals traversing operational fields.

Clive Blacker, Head of Arable Produce at Map of Ag, and Hands-Free farm lead partner, Precision Decisions, supports the route mapping element of the machine operations on the farm. “Safety is paramount and cannot be taken for granted," he said. "The diverse nature of agriculture and robotics operating in off-road and on-road environments poses many challenges - not just dealing with the structure of the rules of the road, but the unconventional unstructured field work and environment causes many unpredictable challenges to the safety of robotics."

Kit Franklin, Senior Agricultural Engineer, Harper Adams University and principal investigator says:“It’s about making autonomous machines a really safe, secure system that farmers feel comfortable with, the public can feel comfortable with and the legislators and insurers can feel comfortable with,”

The Agri-Tech Hackathon 2021

The Hackathon invited developers from a range of disciplines, such as robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things, drones, computer vision and more to “hack” a safety solution for unmanned machinery.

#Hackathon #HandsFreeFarm #AutonomousFarmVehicles #Agri-EPI Centre

#Hackathon

#HandsFreeFarm #AutonomousFarmVehicles #Agri-EPI Centre

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