Tim Matus is the CEO of Renu Robotics. Renu Robotics is automating operations and maintenance for the solar industry. They develop and produce products that mow, spray, clean, and inspect solar panels for utility-scale solar.
The Renubot is a fully autonomous tractor that is designed specifically for large solar fields. What is it about Renubot that makes it most suited for this environment?
Solar fields have a large amount of infrastructure that you must mow around including; solar panels, inverters, wire racks, combiner boxes, etc. In addition, when you go under solar panels you lose the ability to connect to accurate GPS locations. We have developed a system that allows us to map the field, scan the area, and then apply both a lidar scanning and GPS technique that allows us to move without restraints around and under solar panels. It has allowed us to have a complete solution.
Renubot uses a multitude of sensors to analyze the environment around it. What are the different types of sensors that are being used?
We use GPS with RTK correction, lidar, cameras, and tactile sensors. We have additionally tested models with ultrasonics and radar.
A pre-programmed path is initially custom created for each autonomous tractor, how does renubot use machine learning to adapt to new obstacles or changes in its path?
We are in the very early stages of testing machine learning. More testing will need to be done on the algorithms to allow full deployment. However; we expect that the algorithms will help us learn objects that it comes across and make decisions on maneuvering around those objects. Getting machines to learn more like humans will take machine learning and AI and a lot of effort. We hope to be on the forefront of that work.
Renubot enables farmers to cut operating costs by 30 to 50%. How are these savings calculated?
Renubot enables Solar Farms to reduce costs by 30% to 50%. We have deep relationships within the utility-scale solar industry. We have analyzed costs and spoken with many people. Our calculations are based on current cost related to labor, overhead, equipment, maintenance and fuel use. Every customer has different circumstances, we take that into account in our calculations.
Fleet management software will be used to coordinate the work of multiple Renubots. Can you discuss the technology that is used for this fleet management software and the functionalities that it offers?
Our systems are fully autonomous, but their movements are monitored whenever in operation. We monitor the systems for health, functionality, efficiency, maintenance, and for operational stimuli. When the robot encounters something different, we are notified while it pauses. Cameras are turned on and our technicians can view what the machine sees and provide new instructions. Our software allows us to provide different levels of monitoring to our customer. Some prefer to know exactly where the machine is at all times and be able to program it for new areas. Other customers prefer just to receive emailed reports.
In the future the autonomous tractor will offer additional functionality such as pesticide spraying. What are some other functionalities that you anticipate releasing?
Our systems will provide spraying, solar panel cleaning, and inspections. The inspection robot with will scan panels throughout huge solar sites allowing it to find failed panels and predict delamination, a sign that a panel will fail soon. The cleaning and inspection robots have the opportunity to maintain power production at optimum levels.
You were recently accepted in the Capital Factory’s VIP Accelerator program in Austin, Texas. Could you share with us your experience so far with this program and how beneficial it has been to both yourself and Renubot?
Capital Factory is a hotbed of innovation, not just in Texas, but the whole country (and maybe beyond). We find that investors, entrepreneurs and dignitaries are showing up in big numbers to get the vibe on what is happening there. Military branches have connected and even established offices to be on the pulse of technology and the next wave. We learn so much every time we go there. We also feel we can contribute with our knowledge and works and we wish to pay forward to those other hard working entrepreneurs willing to take the risk to do something big! I have created many startups over my career, but what I have learned in the last two months at Capital Factory has put a huge boost on what we are achieving at Renu Robotics.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about Renubot?
Renu Robotics is taking the latest in tech trends and solving real life problems. IOT, lidar, radar, battery, GPS-RTK, and many other technology developments are making our work possible. Several years ago these technologies would have been too costly to deploy for mowing. Today the interest in electric and autonomous cars has made these technologies available. Renu Robotics is on the very forefront of using these technologies on everyday products.
They are currently crowdfunding on the Microventures platform.