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Driverless in the field

Driverless in the field

The high-performance Apex.AI development environment enables the prototype functions developed by Krone and Lemken to be transferred to safety-certified products.

By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com; Images courtesy of Apex.AI

Apex.AI, a developer of safety-certified software for mobility and autonomous applications, has announced a joint partnership to develop commercial-ready autonomous farming systems with Krone, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery and precision agricultural technology, and with Lemken, a company that manufactures innovative machines for tillage, sowing, and sustainable plant care.

The 'Combined Powers' concept vehicle, which was developed by Krone and Lemken, is an autonomous drive unit that acts as a smart system that can plow, cultivate, sow, mow, turn, and swath.

The companies are now transitioning the concept carrier vehicle from the prototype stage to series production by leveraging Apex.AI’s Software Development Kit (SDK), consisting of Apex.Grace and Apex.Ida.

The commercial-ready ‘Combined Powers’ vehicle, which has already proven its performance in the fields, will save farmers valuable time in the future while maintaining the precise quality of work.

With a shortage of skilled workers in agriculture, farmers are increasingly relying on digitization and automation to make optimal use of the available work capacity and are increasingly leveraging innovative technology, including robots that assist in livestock breeding or machines that work the fields highly autonomously.

Key software functions of the 'Combined Powers' architecture are based on the Robot Operating System (ROS), making it a logical decision to rely on Apex.AI products, which are also based on ROS. Unlike ROS, however, Apex.AI’s products are certified by TÜV Nord for applications with special functional safety requirements and are therefore suitable for commercial vehicle use.

Due to the compatibility, the data obtained with the prototypes can be used directly in series development, which makes the Apex.AI software an ideal core component for further development of the 'Combined Powers' products into series production.

"Apex.AI is establishing an operating software for the autonomous age. The partnership with Krone and Lemken is a win-win for all parties. Our development environment, consisting of Apex.Grace and Apex.Ida, is the perfect basis for the applications of Krone and Lemken carrier vehicles. We are now working closely with both companies on a first project to familiarize the teams from the agricultural technology manufacturers with the suitability for series production and the possibilities of the Apex.AI products and methods. We will also evaluate our software as the framework and middleware solutions as part of the implementation phase of the VTE concept," explained Jan Becker, the Chief Executive Officer of Apex.AI.

Added Manuel Volk, a developer at Krone: "In working with Apex.AI, we see the opportunity to move from a development solution based on ROS and ROS 2 to a series solution based on Apex.Grace and being able to implement secure functions. I also expect a faster learning curve in the company since many developers are familiar with the concepts and tools of the Apex.AI SDK from their previous work with ROS and ROS 2."

Discussing the collaboration, Michael Nienhaus, a developer at Lemken, said, "Apex.AI enables us to develop applications that are largely independent of the hardware used. This accelerates the development process and reduces complexity."


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