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Flying robots go where others fear to tread

04 April, 2013

A flying robot as small as a dinner plate that can zoom to hard-to-reach places and a fleet of eco-friendly robotic farm-hands are just two projects in the works at QUT.

Professor Peter Corke, Research Theme Leader within the Institute for Future Environments said the pint-sized propellor-powered robots can be packed away into a suitcase. They have multiple cameras which enable them to 'see' the world around them as they navigate their way through buildings, carrying out tasks like deliveries or inspections.

"You'll be able to put your suitcase on the ground, open it up and send the flying robot off to do its job," Professor Corke said.

"These robots could fly around and deliver objects to people inside buildings and inspect things that are too high or difficult for a human to reach easily.

"Instead of having to lower someone down on a rope to a window on the seventh floor, or raise them up on a cherrypicker, you could send up the flying robot instead."

Professor Corke and his team, including fellow researcher Dr Ben Upcroft, are also researching ways to create lightweight agricultural robots, equipped with cameras, that have advanced navigation capability, cooperate in teams to cover large areas and resupply themselves - all while causing less soil damage and applying herbicide more intelligently.

"Farmers are currently using machines which indiscriminately spray herbicide across the crop, which is expensive and not very environmentally friendly," Dr Upcroft said.

"The (robot's) camera can look at the area surrounding the robot and the image recognition software will pick out features of the weed which make it different to the rest of the crop."

The project is being conducted with the University of Sydney and Queensland farmer Andrew Bate, who runs Advanced Agricultural Systems.

Andrew Bate, who has a grain and cattle farm at Bendee, south-west of Emerald in central Queensland, said the automation of agriculture was a new frontier.

"We've already reached peak farmland, so we have to figure out smarter farming systems which increase yield in a more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable way," Bate said.

"Every other industry is already enjoying the benefits of robotics. This is the revolution farming has to have."

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Bob | Friday, April 12, 2013, 3:55 PM
This is a good idea, BUT it will drive unemplyment through the roof. Soon the way we are going there will be no work for Humans, all done be machines. Crime will go through the roof, no wages for the people , who will pay TAX's the robots?When where does it stop, it's happening in just about every industry. Somebody needs to stop and think about people and the future.