TOMSK, Sep 1 –
RIA Tomsk. The Tomsk production of
robotic systems cost the Cognitive Pilot company 5 million dollars and by the
end of 2020 should reach industrial production volumes. So far, we are talking
about "brains" for unmanned combine harvesters, but in the near
future Tomsk residents can start delivering smart systems for foreign public
transport and not only.
How the pandemic
helped open the enterprise and where the products of the "robot
factory" are already operating told CEO of Cognitive Pilot Olga Uskova to
RIA Tomsk in an interview.
Earlier it was
reported that in 2018 the Tomsk region and the Cognitive Technologies company
agreed to cooperate in the development of unmanned systems. In 2019, in one of
the agricultural enterprises of the Tomsk region, the first field tests of a
combine equipped with a robotic control system from Cognitive Technologies took
place, in the development of which scientists from Tomsk also took part.
© РИА Томск. Павел Стефанский
Signing agreement with Cognitive Technologies
According to the
press service of the Cognitive group of companies, in November 2019, Cognitive
Technologies joined forces with Sberbank in a project to create a new company,
Cognitive Pilot – a company that produces robots and artificial intelligence
systems. The largest investor of new company besides Cognitive Technologies
with share of 30% is Sberbank. Uskova became the CEO of Cognitive Pilot.
Why in Tomsk and
not in Malaysia
Anatolievna, what is the Tomsk division of Cognitive Technologies today?
– We have been
thinking about the need to organize the production of small and medium batches
of smart components for unmanned vehicles for a long time. Medium series – are
thousands of pieces, but last year all experts (our partners and investors) did
not unanimously recommend Russia: "we do not have this practice in our
country," "let's go to Malaysia or China," "look at the
American experience". We drove, looked around the world.
But we are still
not like 99% of standard productions. In terms of knowledge content,
functionality, such products as ours are hardly produced anywhere else in the
world. In general, it looks more like a maternity hospital than a factory. The
dominant factor for the Cognitive Pilot was the availability of highly
qualified and specific personnel both in scientific areas and for work on the
We made the
decision to locate the factory in Tomsk back in October – when there was no
COVID, nothing. The research center with its university background and high
level of specialists – university graduates – is unique. Yes, we considered the
issue of logistics – that there is no direct railway line, and we assessed
In Tomsk, we
rented a building for a robotic factory in a good location, in a research
center – this was helped by the regional leadership and COVID – the area
suitable for all counts was vacated. The quality of the premises was very
important for us, because we plan to supply products all over the world. Now we
are bringing it to an exemplary state, so that we would not be ashamed to bring
our partners and customers here.
© предоставлено пресс-службой Cognitive Pilot
COVID to help
– By the way,
how has the pandemic affected the company's plans?
– When the
pandemic began in January, we became even more convinced of the correctness of
the Tomsk choice. In winter, there were serial failures of foreign factories.
Due to antiviral restrictions, "fell off" two European production. We
just crossed ourselves: thanks to the fact that we started assembling in Tomsk,
we had no delays for almost a single day.
We did not find
ourselves in a situation where the borders began to close one after another.
Physically, the production team assembled in January, but additional purchase
of equipment was carried out for several months: sometimes one was missing,
then another. The production is complex – even those who designed it could not
fully foresee all the subtleties.
© предоставлено пресс-службой Cognitive Pilot
is gaining momentum, and by the end of the year we have to deliver several
thousand devices to customers. In August-September, we start production
– What were the
costs of opening a production in Tomsk? How has the pandemic affected spending?
– The total
investment is about 5 million dollars. At the beginning, we planned that we
would buy some of the components in China, and then we would build up the
Russian component. But it turned out that we could not order anything in the
Middle Kingdom. There were a number of force majeure events that changed our
original plans. But in the end we won, including because of the ruble exchange
For example, we
needed metering pumps for harvesters. The main thing in this market is the
Danes – the Danfoss brand. During the pandemic, they closed, our order was not
fulfilled. And thanks to incredible efforts, we found a Russian-Bulgarian
manufacturer, whose products passed all our tests. As a result, we won almost
40% in price.
– What can you
tell about specialists employed in production?
– The director
of the factory is Sergey Slushko from Tomsk, a very young smart guy. Other
production employees are also 80% from Tomsk, the rest are from neighboring
For us, the
launch of the factory in Tomsk – is a very big event. Cognitive Pilot did not
have the opportunity to first open its R'n'D, then expand production and then
create service companies. We have a very powerful start and the load was
immediately distributed on all fronts. This is due to the emerging demand and
the peculiarities of the market – it is still just being formed, it is empty.
There is no time for buildup.
Sometimes I had
concerns about whether it would be possible to withstand such a load,
especially since the team is very young. The average age of our Tomsk employees
is 30-35 years. It is clear that the guys have no experience of such an
emergency work. I was afraid that someone would ask for mom when we had to work
for 18 hours all summer.
– What is
already being produced in Tomsk?
– In Tomsk, now
we are collecting "brains" for unmanned combine harvesters – agrodroids,
which are now being supplied to Russian and Belarusian customers. There are
several copies for Latin America, but they were not included in the series. We
have a five-level certification system for our own products, which can then
Now on the way
of certification there are two more types of products: Cognitive Rail Pilot,
which is being tested in the Russian Railways system, and the radar series,
which Korea and China are interested in. Production is scheduled to start in
the fall. Radars in Asia are used to control autonomous public transport (these
are "light rails" – something in between a tram and a metro, there is
no such thing in Russia).
is still needed
– What is
happening with the introduction of unmanned systems in the farms of the Tomsk
region, where you announced the start of the project?
– Tomsk is also
native to us because it was one of the first to make it possible to conduct
field tests of control systems for unmanned combine harvesters. We understood
that for agricultural enterprises that undertook to test our solution, this is
a great burden.
persuaded them, the regional administration provided them with benefits. Some
cunning guys took benefits, but they did not sign contracts with us – out of
four farms, two did so. But others – you can visit them now during the harvest –
we have updated the version of the system. Now the combine moves autonomously,
and the combine operator, who can monitor the angle of the header, threshing
speed and other parameters, now sits and controls the technological process.
Together, this reduces grain losses, saves fuel and ensures profitability for
– And when will
the combine operator not take part in harvesting at all?
– We have just
started testing the full autonomy mode, and this system is still far from being
launched into industrial production. This robot is now being tested in one of
the agricultural enterprises of the Tambov region. And this unique device was
produced in Tomsk.
– And what about
other regions? Did the farmers believe in robotic harvesters?
– In Russia,
hundreds of combines with our Cognitive Agro Pilot system have already
harvested this year: from Kaliningrad to the Tomsk region – Siberia is still
the very east for us. Our largest customers are such holdings as EkoNiva,
Rusagro, Steppe, which own land in several regions at once.
project – the first of the major customers – involves the installation of
autopilots for 240 combines. There have never been such large-scale
implementations in the world. We will supply EkoNiva with autopilots in 35
regions of the country. In three years, virtually every tenth combine in Russia
can become unmanned.
РИА Томск, Таисия Воронцова
Unmanned combine harvester
– How profitable
are the farmers today? Do current farmers have the opportunity to acquire
– The once
widespread opinion that agriculture – is a difficult and low-income business
has long been untrue. I see the real financial picture of modern farmers and I
want to say that if the rate of profit for advanced farms suddenly dropped to
30%, then this is a scandal. IT-business with its indicators "rests"
in comparison with them.
For example, I
had a meeting with a customer in the Tambov region, where I arrived in an SUV,
and the agronomist and the head of the farm arrived in two helicopters. It is
clear that these are the most advanced farmers, who have several thousand
hectares at their disposal. Those who want development will not buy Lamborgini,
but invest in technology.
There are now
25% of such leaders in the country. They travel around the world and collect
the best practices. They want to enter foreign markets. I myself look out for the
land to invest and create a robotic farm.
representatives of domestic agriculture are mostly rudiments left over from the
times of the USSR, without business skills. In my opinion, such enterprises may
disappear in the horizon of five years.
Market of the
– What other
international projects is Cognitive Pilot involved in?
– Now we are
entering one of these projects to launch a neural city in Shanghai. There is a
very active young mayor who loves the topic of artificial intelligence, and
they are now making just candy out of the city: everything should be safe,
technologically advanced and beautiful. We are there as subcontractors.
This topic has
not yet been discussed in Russia. For example, in Tyumen such conversations
began earlier than in Shanghai, but there were no people who were ready to take
risks, this is still a very expensive and complex project.
– What else is
planned to be deployed in Tomsk in the future? What projects can residents of
Tomsk still take part in?
– Here I try to
be careful and not talk about upcoming projects, which we are still only
discussing. Tomsk was once regarded as the "radar capital" of the
Soviet Union. You have created a scientific school, specialists receive the
highest level of qualifications. Now the topic of sensors is no longer the
defense industry, these are mass markets.
needed everywhere. And our Tomsk department has created a unique 4D radar
capable of giving not only the coordinates and speed of objects, but also
seeing their shape like a video camera in any weather. We have developed a
mini-radar, the size of a toothpick, which can monitor the space around the
perimeter of the vehicle, solve similar problems in robotics and multicopters.
This is now one
of the richest and most anticipated markets in the world. The intrigue with
sensors is as exciting as the intrigue with microprocessors. Only if in one
case we missed everything, then in the story with sensors we have very high
chances. Russia and Tomsk citizens, in my opinion, are the best here.