Hopping robot jumps ahead – Summer ’20 edition
By combining the propellers of a quadcopter with an ingenious jumping mechanism, CropHopper is able to quickly travel across fields and work for much longer than a drone. It weighs 3kg, will cost €15/ha, can operate unaccompanied by an operator, work in-crop all season and offers the potential to also automatically treat weeds, pests and diseases.
Key to the CropHopper’s operation and endurance is a carbon fibre jumping leg. This has two flexible arms – that look like an archery bow. These are tensioned and bent into the bow shape by an electric winding mechanism.
When the tension is released the bow arms spring back to their original shape and in the process propel the CropHopper into the air. About half way into the jump four propellers engage to increase the travel distance and soften the landing, where it takes high quality pictures, very close to the ground to identify problems less than mm in size. The process repeats, as it hops across the field every four seconds.
CropHopper is the brainchild of Fred Miller, the CEO and founder of HayBeeSee. Born in London, but with farming connections in the USA, Fred studied aeronautical engineering at Imperial College London.
“CropHopper can cover more ground, more easily than a drone or quadcopter because it jumps, which saves a huge amount of energy. This means it can be used more often and for longer, gathering huge amounts of data,” explains Fred.
Unlike a drone, which requires a battery change or recharge every 20-30 mins, the CropHopper will cover about 70ha in a day on three charges or battery changes. In the future it’s planned that it takes itself to a charging station, where it automatically recharges or changes batteries.
The company is now moving to the next stage of manufacture and is looking to receive £3m in Venture Capital. It is also opening a farmer crowd-funding campaign, creating a new way to involve customers. As well as equity, this will also include an option to swap the investment for the product later down the line, minimising risk and providing trial data and product demos for free to farmers who invest.
This is what a crop walker will see by the eye [Pic. A], 1m above the ground.
The CropHopper weed map [Pic. B], spotted and mapped early stage blackgrass, which was missed by the eye.