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Self-driving combine harvesters reap 720,000 tons of crops

Cognitive Agro Pilot – an autonomous AI-based driving system for farming equipment which was designed by Sber and its ecosystem member Cognitive Pilot – has succeeded in industrial use across 35 regions of Russia when reaping the 2020 harvest.

From June to October 2020, over 350 New Holland, John Deere and Claas autonomous combines equipped with Cognitive Agro Pilot system farmed over 160,000 hectares of field and harvested more than 720,000 tons of crops.

With the help of Cognitive Agro Pilot as many as 590,000 metric tons of grain crops (wheat, soybeans, barley, oats, sorghum, buckwheat, etc.) were harvested over 130,000 hectares, and some 130,000 metric tons of row crops and roll crops (corn, sunflower, etc.) were harvested over 30,000 hectares in Kaliningrad Region, Kaluga Region, Kursk Region, Belgorod Region, Tambov Region, Penza Region, Rostov Region, Tomsk Region, Kurgan Region, Krasnodar Territory, Krasnoyarsk Territory, and Stavropol Territory.

Thanks to the use of Cognitive Agro Pilot, this harvesting season stakeholders were able to save – on fuel and other related materials, shorter harvesting time (machine hours), equipment depreciation, extended active use of equipment before capital expenditures, fewer human errors, optimization of business processes, and other parameters – an aggregate of over USD 6,5 million.

According to the CEO of Cognitive Pilot Olga Uskova, “Controlled by the Cognitive Agro Pilot system, machines have worked over 230,000 hours, passing over 950,000 km this year. These high figures prove the setup is reliable and called-for among farmers. Partnership with Sberbank and leading agricultural holdings allows us not only to scale the use of technology efficiently but also guarantee that our clients enjoy high-quality local service.”

Cognitive Agro Pilot is an autonomous AI-based driving system for farming equipment such as grain combine harvesters, tractors, and sprayers. The system analyzes images from just one video camera and, by using a deep learning convolutional neural network fine-tuned for agronomic purposes, understands the types and positions of objects facing the machinery, builds movement trajectories, and sends commands to perform maneuvers.

This is the world’s first system that “sees” and “understands” what’s lying ahead, which is an advantage over other solutions that usually utilize a raft of tools for their control models: GPS navigation with RTK positioning, etc. The edge capture when controlling a harvester by the Cognitive Agro Pilot system is stable at no more than 10 cm, which lets you avoid unnecessary passes and fuel losses. With the autopilot mode on, the setup avoids obstacles and stops when detecting a threat of collision with other equipment or people.

In September 2020, the Cognitive Agro Pilot solution won the Overall Harvesting Innovation of the Year award at AgTec Breakthrough Awards 2020, while a year before it won the AVT ACES AWARD, which was organized by the Autonomous Vehicle Technology magazine.

The Cognitive Agro Pilot setup includes an autonomous unit to manage farm equipment, a video camera, a display, a set of connecting cables, and other elements of the control system. The user interface is available via an Android mobile app for smartphones or rugged tables.

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