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Lights, Camera, Action! Preparation for UK RAS RoboLab Live Event

UK RAS RoboLab Live is the flagship event of the UK Festival of Robotics that this year takes place between the 18th -24th June. The RoboLab Live event is a simultaneous livestream showcase event where research groups come together to showcase the cutting edge of robotics.

Last year more than 16 teams took part, including the University of Lincoln, with more than two and half thousand viewers watching live via YouTube. The event is focused on presenting exciting, unusual and engaging demonstrations that are accessible to members of the public and young students alike. The aim is to inspire.

This year, the AgriFoRwArdS CDT with support from Lincoln Agri-Robotics (LAR) and Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems (L-CAS), is again taking part in RoboLab Live, with an exciting demonstration focused around Agri-Food Robotics. Viewers will be able to engage in a two part  story, where we share how single and fleet robotics can assist in physical and also cognitive support services across a variety of tasks within a fresh fruit farm environment.  Our hope is to share what we do, and also encourage future agri-tech scientists and engineers into the field.

UK RAS supports the whole process, from loaning camera equipment to providing experts to ensure demonstrations are as interactive as possible. The first stage is developing a rough storyboard and then working with a professional videographer, who will shoot promotional footage. On the 31st March, videographer William Westaway visited the Riseholme campus, home of the AgriFoRwArdS CDT, on behalf of UK RAS to capture as much content as possible for the promotional video. This required several interviews with those who are currently working in the labs, close up technical shots and several action scenes, not least using the Thorvald robot’s wondering through our beautiful polytunnels.

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A close up shot of Jaime and James while controlling Thorvald through the polytunnel.

To do this we had fantastic support from Saga Robotics, who work with LARS, LCAS and a variety of other research teams at the Riseholme campus. Dr Jaime Fentanes, Head of Autonomy at Saga, James Heselden, Research Assistant in Agricultural In-Field Robotic Logistics, CDT Cohort 1 student Roopika Ravikanna and Dr Rob Llyod, Senior Mechatronics Engineer, from the university of Lincoln provided significant help throughout the whole day.

As we progressed with the filming, we couldn’t have done any of it without the support of Jonathan Trotter, who is Strawberry Farm Manager and Project Coordinator for RASberry, GRASPberry and First Fleet projects based at Riseholme. With Jonathan, only a few days prior having planted the entire Strawberry crop! Even through we had some really great weather several days prior to the filming, on the day it was freezing and also snowed which is completely the opposite weather young strawberry plants want. We had to be really careful to ensure the tunnels were not open for long to keep all the inclement weather out. We also had the pleasure of the Red Arrows, The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team based a few miles away, low flying over the area which meant several retakes were required!

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Jaime controlling Thorvald for an action shot through the polytunnel

To top off the filming session, Roopkia and Garry Clawson, CDT cohort 3 student, provided answers to a Q&A session that was also going to be part of the promotional film. Garry had the luxury of doing this indoors, within the purpose built CDT workshops managed by Dr Rob Llyod, but Roopika had the short straw and was answering questions in the polytunnels while it was also hailing and snowing outside. It was a pretty cold morning! However, Roopika was as professional as ever, and really added an excellent closing to the filming session for the day.

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Videographer, William Westwood (Rokethouse) following closely behind Thorvald as it navigates along a Strawberry row.

Over the next serval weeks the team will be working together along with UK RAS to build up a story board ready for a full dress rehearsal on the 28th May. The formal event will then take place on the 22nd June live on YouTube. Make sure to join us!

If you want to find out more information on the research and outreach being done within AgriFoRwArdS, L-CAS, or LAR please visit the respective websites.

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