Universal Field Robots (UFR) is a Brisbane based robotics company that thinks big.
The company specialises in autonomous field robots for a broad range of industries including agriculture, construction, forestry and mining.
At the recent International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2018), UFR had its giant UFR3C three-tonne robotic base on show.
The 4m high UFR3C, based on a Caterpillar excavator, is capable of much more than just digging holes.
Attachments include mowers, mulchers, augers, trenchers, slashers, drilling buckets, grab assemblies and more.
The company has also developed an autonomous robotic avocado picker, which can attach to the excavator.
The avocado picker can not only identify whether fruit is ripe for picking, the equipment operates at a similar speed to manual picking.
It has the potential to operate 24/7, without the need for manual labour.
This not only results in significant cost savings, it also drastically reduces risk of injury.
The company has been extensively testing the avocado picker before it is released commercially.
The next phase of testing will begin later this year on avocado farms near Esk, Childers and Bundaberg in North Queensland.
The UFR robots are being designed with the latest sensing and software, allowing them to perceive the world around them like never before.
A dedicated team of engineers is developing software that enables fully autonomous, independent control of all of the machine's functions.
Their groundbreaking technology has the potential to bring automation to a range of outdoor tasks and reduce costs across those industries.
Rise of autonomous machines
UFC founder Jeff Sterling, a local engineer, previously operated an engineering business for 20 years.
During that time, he couldn’t help but notice the steady increase of autonomous machines being used in factories.
But few companies were developing robots which could operate outside. Such machinery would have broad appeal globally – a guaranteed game changer.
And Universal Field Robots was born.
Mr Sterling also has ambitious plans to potentially build solar farms and hopes to soon collaborate with major mining companies to develop robotic mining equipment.
Universal Field Robots was one of 56 exhibitors at ICRA 2018, including Woodside Energy, UBER, Omron, Freelance Robotics, Honda Research Institute, CSIRO and Queensland University of Technology.
It was the first time the international event has been held in the Southern Hemisphere with the world robotic spotlight firmly focussed on Brisbane.