Robot set to invade countryside

Robotics researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have developed the Demeter, a robotic hay harvester that may make some farm labourers redundant.

Demeter is a revamped Hollander 2550 Speedrower with a GPS sensor and two colour cameras for navigation and detection of cut and uncut rows.

It can plan harvesting operations for an entire field, then cut crop rows, turn to cut other rows, reposition itself, and detect unexpected obstacles in its path.

The robotics researchers at CMU also want to make Demeter even smarter by infusing it with the skills of an expert human operator.

That skilled operator would simply have to harvest a field once, allowing a lesser-skilled operator to play back the original ‘program’ at a later date.

The Demeter is close to being commercialised by Case New Holland, which plans to include the robotic technologies in their new HW340 hay harvester. Eventually it will be part of Case New Holland’s complete product line.