There’s been much discussion in the media recently on the subject of AI, robotics and drones, and the effect of new advances in these technologies could have on our future planet.
Despite fears over job security and the idea that robots could take over the world, these new technologies have the potential to make huge advancements in the way we work across many industries, improving safety, efficiency and sustainability.
So, what will the future of robotics really look like?
The Future of Food
It’s estimated that by 2050, we will need 60% more food than we’re currently producing. With this in mind, the importance of improving sustainability within our food production systems is more pressing than ever. The UK government is investing £90 million into finding innovations in food production that utilise new technologies.
With the help of funding from Innovate UK, projects are already demonstrating what the future of food production could look like.
For example, an autonomous robotic strawberry picker has been created that works at twice the speed of a human, and entire crops have been planted, cultivated and harvested by robots.
Robots and drones can provide wide-ranging benefits to the food production industry, increasing efficiency and reducing the need for heavy labour. Drones also have the ability to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by removing weeds, and sensors can monitor crop growth to alert farmers if action needs to be taken.
For a greener future, it’s predicted that autonomous delivery systems will soon be bringing our food to supermarkets and homes around the country. Low-carbon smart transport, driverless cars and drones are more sustainable, convenient and low-cost options. Food waste can be avoided by making home delivery cheaper and easier, allowing people to order only what they need on a more regular basis.
It might not be long before your Saturday night take-away is delivered by drone!
Making our Working Lives Easier
Dangerous, unappealing jobs can be made easier with the use of drones and AI, by venturing into dangerous areas difficult for humans to reach. Space, mining and off-shore industries, for example, could benefit greatly from these technologies.
Projects introducing AI into extreme environments have already received funding from The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Innovate UK are supporting several projects as part of this scheme to assess the feasibility of using robotics in different industries.
One such project is sending drones to inspect restricted areas, such as off-shore wind farms, reducing the need for potentially dangerous human intervention.
Another advantage of these technologies is that jobs that are currently very physical can be made more accessible to a wider section of the population with the help of AI and robotics. By working remotely, humans can become more flexible and comfortable at work. Good news for productivity and the wider economy.
Smarter, Sustainable Energy
It’s predicted that energy resources of the future will be low-cost, renewable and maintained by robots.
Drones will have a large part to play in the building of this new infrastructure, from taking measurements for the installation of wind turbines, to transmitting information back to engineers.
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen have advised using aerial drones to inspect the safety of oil and gas pipelines. According to researchers, monitoring vast, hard to reach areas by drone could improve efficiency and the safety of workers.
Are Our Jobs at Risk?
When we talk about AI and robotics, something that comes up time and time again is the fear of humans losing their jobs to superior machines.
This isn’t the case.
It’s true that jobs in the future will develop and change with the introduction of new technologies and changing demands. Some may even disappear altogether. However, for the most part, AI and humans will develop a productive co-working relationship.
Working with machines is the best way to make jobs safer, more comfortable and flexible in the future. By combining the strength, precision and reliability of machines with the imagination and creativity of humans, tasks can be tackled most effectively.
The key thing we need to remember going forward is the importance of investing in STEM education for the younger generations, to ensure our workforce has the relevant skills needed for the future world of work.
Investing in the Future
In order to make these future predictions a reality, projects like these need support and funding.
Innovate UK have been helping projects which make use of robotics and AI as part of the government push to bolster science and business innovation.
Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the national funding agency investing in science and research projects around the UK.
Subscribe to the Innovate UK YouTube channel to find out about the other cutting-edge projects they’ve helped fund, support and connect to build a sustainable future.