It was these factors which led to DCE’s involvement in the Ibex consortium, a project to develop an extreme mobility agricultural robot, capable of driving itself around steep grassland dairy and sheep hill farms and moorland, where conventional machinery is too dangerous to operate or where the terrain makes it impossible. The objective was to identify and kill weeds and plants which are poisonous to livestock.
Over an 18-month period, the DCE team developed the IBEX2 system from scratch, resulting in a prototype which is capable of traversing a farm autonomously using a combination of onboard sensors. Also fitted to the vehicle is a machine-vision enabled spraying system which is able to recognise weeds and poisonous plants prior to spot spraying them with a carefully calibrated dose of herbicide. IBEX2 replaces expensive and environmentally damaging bulk spraying by helicopter or manual weed spraying.