Using Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS) to support human fruit pickers and reduce workplace accidents.
Safety is a recognized problem in agricultural work. Agricultural workers make up only 1% of the UK workforce, yet suffer 20% of all workplace fatalities, and 4% of farmworkers suffer non-fatal accidents each year.
To enhance safety in agriculture, the University of Lincoln and SAGA Robotics have developed fleets of autonomous soft-fruit production robots that undertake several tasks from monitoring and forecasting to harvesting and transportation in real-world fruit farm environments.
This project complements the team’s existing work on the functionality and technical capabilities of the robots by:
- Defining safety requirements for the sense-understand-decide-act components of a soft-fruit production RAS.
- Developing methods to detect deviations from safe behavior and ways to mitigate the effect of such deviations.
- Formally verifying sensing, understanding, and deciding components of a soft-fruit production RAS.
The team has developed its descriptions of four scenarios for the deployment of robots in soft-fruit harvesting. They have completed a hazard analysis for each scenario, identifying the critical points at which safety could be compromised, and followed these up by identifying how these hazards can be mitigated. Some initial results on the hazard analysis and the formal verification have been written up for publication.
The mitigation strategies are currently being integrated into the existing software stack that is used on the Thorvald robots that are employed commercially. A demo video can be seen below showing the main features of the proposed Human-Aware Navigation (HAN) system when the robot is operating in “logistics” mode.
Papers and presentations
- Guevara, L., Khalid, M., Hanheide, M., and Parsons, S. “Assessing the probability of human injury during UV-C treatment of crops by robots“, 4th UK-RAS Conference for PhD Students & Early-Career Researchers, 2021.
- Khalid, M., Guevara, L., Hanheide, M., Parsons, S. “Assuring autonomy of robots in soft fruit production“, 4th UK-RAS Conference for PhD Students & Early-Career Researchers, 2021.