Agricultural robots for field operations: Concepts and components

Avital Bechar, Clément Vigneault

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

300 Scopus citations


This review investigates the research effort, developments and innovation in agricultural robots for field operations, and the associated concepts, principles, limitations and gaps. Robots are highly complex, consisting of different sub-systems that need to be integrated and correctly synchronised to perform tasks perfectly as a whole and successfully transfer the required information. Extensive research has been conducted on the application of robots and automation to a variety of field operations, and technical feasibility has been widely demonstrated. Agricultural robots for field operations must be able to operate in unstructured agricultural environments with the same quality of work achieved by current methods and means. To assimilate robotic systems, technologies must be developed to overcome continuously changing conditions and variability in produce and environments. Intelligent systems are needed for successful task performance in such environments. The robotic system must be cost-effective, while being inherently safe and reliable—human safety, and preservation of the environment, the crop and the machinery are mandatory. Despite much progress in recent years, in most cases the technology is not yet commercially available. Information-acquisition systems, including sensors, fusion algorithms and data analysis, need to be adjusted to the dynamic conditions of unstructured agricultural environments. Intensive research is needed on integrating human operators into the system control loop for increased system performance and reliability. System sizes should be reduced while improving the integration of all parts and components. For robots to perform in agricultural environments and execute agricultural tasks, research must focus on: fusing complementary sensors for adequate localisation and sensing abilities, developing simple manipulators for each agricultural task, developing path planning, navigation and guidance algorithms suited to environments besides open fields and known a-priori, and integrating human operators in this complex and highly dynamic situation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-111
Number of pages18
JournalBiosystems Engineering
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Agricultural robots
  • Autonomous
  • Field operations
  • Robotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science


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