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SwagBot will autonomously roll them little dogies along rough Australian ranchlands

TechCrunch TechCrunch 14/07/2016 Devin Coldewey

Is nothing sacred? The rugged trails that over history have been trod by cowboys, gauchos, ranch hands, and in Australia, swagmen, are now to be presided over by cold, calculating machines. SwagBot is the vanguard of our incoming steer-driving overlords, its independent all-wheel drive churning carelessly the mud in which once toiled our manly forbears and their snorting charges.

Actually, it’s pretty cool. SwagBot is an all-terrain robot vehicle platform created by the Australian Centre for Field Robotics with the goal of, eventually, autonomously patrolling the vast pastures and farmlands of the Australian countryside. Ro-hiiiide!

It has a hilariously elevated ride height and enormous wheels so it can clamber over the inevitable stray branches and logs and wade through streams and marshlands. Cameras mounted on it can watch cattle or inspect trees and plants, and its flat head can even serve as a launch platform for a companion drone.

The electrically-propelled vehicle could eventually monitor and herd cattle, check for invasive plants (and spray them), inspect fences, and even do work around the house like carrying firewood.

For now, though, SwagBot must be remotely operated; the autonomous part comes later. The project’s leader, Salah Sukkarieh, told IEEE Spectrum that the next year should bring collision avoidance, autonomous delivery, weeding, and sensors for animal monitoring. I’ve asked for more details as well and will add them to the story as soon as I hear back.

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