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Deploying AgRobots In Time For Harvest with Freedom Pilot

Labor shortages and increasing concerns around sustainability have led to deployment of a variety of robots in the field with more to come: harvesting, picking, fully robotic greenhouses, precision farming, mowing, pruning, phenotyping, seeding, and sorting. BuiltIn recently showcased a number of robot applications, Robotics Industries Association (RIA) featured a series of applications in its 2019 blog: Cultivating Robotics and AI for Sustainable Agriculture. And with COVID-19, this steady current of demand is suddenly a spike. Trends have become burning problems in need of a solution now.

Forbes outlined last month that with borders closed to migrant workers in Cornwall, England, they are left without people to pick the vegetables ripening in the fields. Food will rot if they don’t find a solution. This is not a one-off problem: Monterey county, where much of the US specialty crop production comes from, conducted a survey revealing that, as of April 24, 2020, 2,093 acres were lost or not planted due to labor shortage


Agriculture robots are poised to solve big problems in labor shortage and sustainability. With Freedom Pilot, they can ship faster using teleoperation and build their way to autonomy by collecting data along the way. Photo credit: https://ironox.com/

We have helped AgRobot companies ship fast with robots for picking, weeding and collaborative farming. Whats new is these machines are shipped fast and iterated on to solve real farmers problems rather than sit in R&D solving robotics problems.

The time to ship robots is now.

We at Freedom Robotics are very passionate about helping the robotics companies we work with ship faster. Agtech startups can ship robots sooner and meet that demand by using teleoperations and humans in the loop while building fully autonomous systems over time - not all at once. That’s why we built Freedom Pilot, allowing you to control your robots from anywhere so you can focus on making your robot work the field.

Picture 4

Freedom Robotics pilot interface for an apple orchard in Washington. Camera feeds are displayed live with WebRTC. Commands injected to to pause or label apples, and key metrics like the number of trees harvested are tracked.


How it Works

You’ll need: a robot with an internet connection and Freedom installed on it (5 minute, one-line install). One company we work with bought a mobile base, battery, computer, camera, and a sim card. They then installed the Freedom Agent and shipped with remote operators 3 days from receipt of hardware. Getting their hands dirty early on taught them exactly what features they needed to build and perhaps more importantly which ones they didn’t, saving them a lot of time - while providing value to their customers.


Out-Of-The-Box Capabilities

We built Freedom Robotics Pilot to be easy to try out and customize. It comes with a set of out-of-the-box capabilities and is API first so you can build out any custom functionality specific to your robot.

  • Optimized for Low Bandwidth - Only upload the data you need by specifying which topics to upload and at which rate so you don’t rack up big data usage bills
  • Drive - Use Pilot as a driving tool
  • WebRTC Teleoperation - View camera feeds and send commands with low latency browser to robot communication
  • Fault Expectant - Buffering, compression and fast automatic reconnect to handle intermittent internet dropouts
  • Dataset & report generation - Save images and data offline for reporting and ML use later
  • API first - We built our app on the same API we provide to all our customers - configure things how you want them.
  • GPS Satellite - View GPS and send goals


How to Use Remote Operators to Ship on Day One

Take apple picking for example - you’ll need mechanics and electronics that can pick the fruit from the tree - but all kinds of corner cases can come up. You’ll need to avoid leaves and stems, ensure you don’t miss any fruit, and you’ll need a dataset. It's a chicken and egg problem. Start small and build up as you deploy.

Ship it now with the mechanics and tele-operate the base between trees using the Freedom Pilot joystick. View GPS feeds to get the big picture and monitor location in real time. Specify pick locations using Freedom’s point-and-click command injection and label everything along the way.

Picture 3

Freedom Robotics pilot interface for an apple orchard in Washington. GPS feeds show live position on satellite data. Inject commands to label objects, pause processes or retry

As robots become more autonomous, you can move operators from a critical path to fixing corner cases, all while gathering data. Manage the robot’s state by pausing the robot to fix and adjust its position using the joystick, then resume autonomous apple-picking once things are good to go.


Send Commands with Point-to-Click

Point-to-click sends the robot the pixel coordinates that were clicked on the live camera feed coming from the robot. Robotics companies can then use this data to command an arm to a pick location or to label an item, deploying a valuable service now, and building a dataset for more autonomy later.

Freedom Robotics - Point and Click Commands

A robot operator specifies pick locations on an apple tree on a live camera feed. The Freedom Robotics agent and API communicates the pixel coordinates to the robot in real-time.


Teach your robot to take a photo to gather data.

While the robot is being operated remotely, images and data can be stored offline to create real-world datasets using Freedom’s API. Check out our recent blog and tutorial to see how this works. This then feeds back in a loop which, over time, brings your robot closer to full autonomy.

Picture 5

Blueberries are segmented and counted in the wild using instance segmentation - the same technique can be used alongside manual teleoperations for picking, weeding, phenotyping and more. (image credit: DeepBlueBerry: Quantification of Blueberries in the Wild Using Instance Segmentation)


Try it today!

To learn more about Pilot features and how to make the most of them, check out our documentation.. Get started today by emailing us at hello@freedomrobotics.ai, signing up for a free trial, or pinging us on chat!

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