Rusagro and Cognitive Pilot launch the world's largest autonomous driving project for agricultural machinery

The contract between the two companies states that the Cognitive Agro Pilot software and hardware complex will be installed on 242 combine harvesters used by Rusagro in Belgorod, Tambov, Kursk and Orel regions, as well as in Primorsky Krai.

Rusagro, Russia's largest agricultural holding company and Cognitive Pilot, an autonomous driving technology joint venture of Russia's Sberbank and Cognitive Technologies Group, are starting the industrial introduction of the Cognitive Agro Pilot system, an autonomous driving system for agricultural machinery (combine harvesters, tractors and sprayers).

The contract between the two companies states that the Cognitive Agro Pilot software and hardware complex will be installed on 242 combine harvesters used by Rusagro in Belgorod, Tambov, Kursk and Orel regions, as well as in Primorsky Krai. The machinery will be equipped with the system gradually during the harvesting campaigns of 2020-2021. The first complexes will be installed in the middle of June.

This partnership between Rusagro and Cognitive Pilot is carried out within the federal project "Digital Technologies" (part of the national program "Digital Economy of the Russian Federation"), which is implemented by the Skolkovo Foundation.

According to Rusagro's Chairman of the Board, Vadim Moshkovich, equipping the fleet of combine harvesters with an AI-based autonomous control system will significantly enhance the efficiency of harvesting. "Improving the efficiency of agricultural enterprises through the use of the latest technologies of autonomous driving will lead us to a new level of productivity - a new quality of work for the entire Rusagro team," comments Moshkovich.

"The use of an autonomous control system during harvesting will minimize the risks of negative human factors and will optimize the use of combine harvesters. It's noteworthy that the industrial introduction of the system fell in a year when a record harvest of wheat is expected in Russia. We have used all the necessary resources to show a decent result at this year's harvesting campaign," adds Roman Shkoller, CEO of the Agriculture Business Division at Rusagro.

According to the signed specification, the system will be capable of performing safe autonomous movement in plowed or unplowed ground and mowed or unmowed fields. The system will also automatically detect obstacles and warn the combine operator when the machine leaves the route in cases of manual operation. Operators will also be able to monitor the movement of each equipped combine on the track in real time.

"The presence of an operator in the cabin during harvesting will still be mandatory. However, the system will allow the operator to focus more on controlling and monitoring other parameters of the harvesting process: for example, on the angle of the header, setting the threshing process and grain cleaning," says Olga Uskova, the CEO of Cognitive Pilot. "The edge grip while operating with the Cognitive Agro Pilot is stable, it does not exceed 20 cm to avoid excessive passages and fuel losses. In general, the use of the system can reduce the cost of grain by 3-5% and reduce its losses during harvesting by two times. In the future we plan to develop a fully driverless system," states Uskova.

Rusagro is one of the world's leading agriculture companies in terms of "digitalization" and implementation of innovation. "Our strategy," explains Roman Shkoller, "is aimed at increasing EBITDA per hectare (in fact, this is an analogue of unit economy in agricultural business).

The project is being developed within the ecosystem of Sberbank and it's the world's largest one-time robotization project for agricultural machinery in four climatic zones within one agricultural holding.

"Sberbank is a key partner of the Russian agricultural industry and it continues to actively develop digital technologies, including artificial intelligence, for agricultural enterprises. The scale of the signed contract, which represents the world record for the automation of the fleet of agricultural machinery, reflects the demand for this type of technology and will help accelerate the development of this competence in the country," explains Alexander Vedyakhin, First Deputy Chairman of the Board of Sberbank.

Cognitive Agro Pilot is an AI-based autonomous driving system for agricultural machinery - grain harvesters, tractors, sprayers - that lets machinery operators focus on the quality of harvesting while leaving the robot assistant to run the machinery itself. The system analyzes images from just one video camera with the help of a convolutional neural network that was modified for agricultural purposes and tasks. Cognitive Agro Pilot understands the types and positions of the objects, builds the correct trajectory of the combine and sends commands to perform maneuvers. This distinguishes the system from other solutions that generally use a whole set of various sensors like laser scanners (lidars) for moving along the field, stereo cameras for harvesting, etc.

Cognitive Agro Pilot ensures safe operation in all types of weather and light conditions. The system doesn't require GPS navigation and it can detect unexpected obstacles, including people, animals, metal objects and stones, plus it can work in areas with weak satellite signal. The equipment installed on Rusagro harvesters includes an automatic control unit, a video camera, a display screen, a set of connecting cables and other elements of the control system.

The Cognitive Agro Pilot system has already been successfully installed and tested in the United States, Brazil and China, as well as in several Russian regions, including Tomsk Region, Kurgan Region, Belgorod Region, the Republic of Tatarstan and others. In 2019 the solution won the prestigious international AVT ACES AWARD, organized by the Autonomous Vehicle Technology magazine.

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