Tevel Aerobotics ready for deployment

Tevel Aerobotics, an Israeli ag-tech startup with a novel drone-based harvesting solution, demonstrated the latest edition of its harvesting solution at the 2023 World Ag Expo. The company has partnered with S&S Metal Fabrication to build an autonomous tree fruit harvesting solution called the Alpha-Bot that is ready for deployment this upcoming growing season. Tevel Aerobotics is a 2021 recipient of an RBR50 innovation award for fruit-collecting drones.

The partnership with S&S Metal Fabrication is critical to the overall success of this solution. The Tevel drones are tethered so that they can work continuously all day gathering ripe fruit from the trees in an orchard. The drones require a mobile platform with power for the drones. The partnership with S&S provides this.

A hero image of the new Tevel Alpha-bot harvesting platform.
The new Alpha-bot is a technology partnership between S&S Metal Fabrication and Tevel Aerobotics. | Credit: The Robot Report

S&S Metal Fabrication is one of the leading US manufacturers of mobile, manual harvesting platforms. Today, these mobile platforms provide a safe and elevated workspace for human pickers to reach the fruit without continually having to move ladders. The newly designed Alpha-bot is built on top of the chassis from S&S and it is designed to carry the Tevel drones, power the drones, and is built around a central conveyor system that is designed to accumulate harvested fruit from the drones into bins, and deposit the full bins in the orchard rows as the harvest progresses.

close up image of the soft landing drop zone for fruit on the Tevel Alpha-bot.
The Alpha-bot is built around a fruit-handling conveyor that includes a soft landing zone for the fruit harvested by a drone. The conveyor then moves the fruit into a bin underneath the platform. | Credit: The Robot Report

The Alpha-Bot can handle a variety of tree fruit from a 50g (2 oz) apricot to a 700g (25 oz) apple. The drone gathers data about each item picked, using the onboard cameras to grade and size the fruit. The system also geostamps and timestamps the picking operation. All of this data is then made available to the orchard owner.

a look underneath the tevel alpha-bot showing the accumulation bins.
The Alpha-bot includes an autonomous fruit accumulation system to bin the fruit continuously and deposit full bins in the orchard row as the harvesting process progresses. | Credit: The Robot Report

Currently, the mobile platform of the Alpha-bot is not fully autonomous. It requires the operator to manage the movement of the platform down the orchard row as the drones autonomously pick the fruit from the trees. According to the company, there are plans to ultimately make the unit completely autonomous, but those features are still on the roadmap. The operator uses a joystick to control the operation.

Danielle Hager, Marketing Manager for Tevel said “Since last year, we’re continually making improvements. We’re adding more varieties of fruit. We’re adding more data features. We also provide real-time data on every single fruit as it’s being picked: we can tell you the weight, the size, the color grading, the timestamp, the heat map, all of this information, and the farmer can just see it on his phone so he can see the content. And the power in our software is that we’re able to give them even more information, more real-time data and this is really what they’re also hungry for.”

mike oitzman headshot.
Written by

Mike Oitzman

Mike Oitzman is Senior Editor of WTWH's Robotics Group, cohost of The Robot Report Podcast, and founder of the Mobile Robot Guide. Oitzman is a robotics industry veteran with 25-plus years of experience at various high-tech companies in the roles of marketing, sales and product management. He can be reached at moitzman@wtwhmedia.com.