Kubota expects to make fruit harvesting drones available to North American fruit farmers as early as 2025.
The autonomous flying harvesters captured lots of attention at Agritechnica ’23 as the equipment manufacturer showed off the potential of its collaboration with technology developer Tevel.
In this video interview with RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin, Kubota representative Sumit Joshi describes how the drones have been designed with a harvesting arm that mimics the hand of a human harvester.
In an apple orchard, for example, the drones, equipped with cameras, sensors and article intelligence can identify the desired colour and ripeness of fruit. It then uses its arm, equipped with a suction cup, to grasp the fruit, twist it to remove it from the tree, and fly it back to the collection platform where the drone gently lays it on a soft landing pad to prevent bruising. (Story continues after the video.)
Joshi says the technology will meet the demands of horticulture farmers who find it increasingly difficult to source harvest labour and will also increase quality by reducing fruit bruising.
Joshi notes that a platform carrying a fleet of eight drones has the capacity to harvest up to 600 kilos of apples in a day. The drones are currently being tested on farms in Italy and are expected to be launched commercially in North American in two years.
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