Tuesday, 24 May 2016 07:55

Fetch me a beer while I seed the bottom paddock

Written by  Mark Daniel
Autonomous tractors may just be coming to a paddock near you. Autonomous tractors may just be coming to a paddock near you.

As AUDI, BMW, Ford and even Google talk about driverless cars in the next five years, a North Dakota company is marketing the idea for agriculture.

Autonomous tractors may just be coming to a paddock near you.

The Autonomous Tractor Corporation recently demonstrated such a tractor, which combines diesel electric drive and a navigation and safety system called AutoDrive.

But are we ready for such technology?

Over the last decade we have learned to trust autosteer systems which allow much greater accuracy, in some cases down to 2cm. John Deere has perfected an automated headland turn with its iTec Pro system; so what's to stop you taking the tractor to the paddock, putting it to work, then going home for breakfast? Apparently not much.

The Autonomous Tractor Corp demonstration machine was based on a JD 8760 nicknamed 'Big Jim', converted to run two diesel-engines, two generators and individual wheel motors – allowing precise control at each corner.

The AutoDrive systems can be offered in four stages, to introduce users to the technology gradually and see them move up to succeeding levels of automation until they reach stage 4 and full autonomy.

At stage 1, the operator manually drives the modified diesel-electric tractor, before moving to stage 2 – advanced GPS guidance with two RTK transponders set up in the paddock and a further two units mounted on top of the tractor.

These four navigation devices are said to ensure greater accuracy than current units which usually use a mobile unit on the tractor and another mobile RTK unit or a fixed transmitter. The system still has the potential for dropouts however, as the GPS can be affected by solar disruptions.

At stage 3 a gyro-mounted laser steers the tractor but still uses the onboard GPS to confirm its course.

At stage 4 a radio system is installed over the top of the GPS RTK and laser systems, giving full autonomy without the need for a driver, other than an initial 'teach-in' where the operator trains the artificial intelligence for a particular task.

Whether the industry is ready for it now, who knows? But it could be just the thing in a Rugby World Cup year, when grass needs sowing and the ABs are playing the Springboks on the big screen.

Fetch me another beer and a pie.

More like this

Keeping tails clean now’s a ‘Switch’

Any dairy farmer who has taken a smack in the face from a dung-encrusted cow’s tail on a frosty morning will know the feeling and wonder how to stop it happening again.

New tractor fills the gap

Deutz Fahr has introduced the new 8280 TTV, which is aimed at filling the gap between its current 7 and 9 Series models.

World's fastest dry matter analyser

Ag-tech company Consumer Physics is introducing SCiO Cup – said to be the world’s fastest, portable, lab-grade forage dry matter analyser.

Finn’s Swiss Army knife tractor

As a sign of the times, last week Valtra brought together 180 journalists from around the world for the “livestream” launch of its first, fifth-generation tractor – the new G series.

Featured

 

Back the sector that backs NZ

OPINION: The biggest issue currently facing our industry is environmental policy, writes Beef+Lamb NZ chief executive Sam McIvor.

National

Lamb price down, but not weak

While lamb prices are starting the new season at around 16% below last year’s levels, they are not outright weak,…

Quota split a major worry

New Zealand meat exporters want the EU and UK to get serious on reaching a deal on post-Brexit quotas.

NZ meat exports at risk

Nearly half of our country’s meat exports are at risk unless there is urgent action by government to allow migrant…

Machinery & Products

Claas cargo wagon

CLAAS has extended the versatility, productivity and user comfort of its CARGOS dual purpose transport wagons with the addition of…

These tractors are pumping

CLAAS has announced it will introduce a new automatic tyre inflation system across its AXION and ARION series of tractors.

Great hay cut at speed

Contractors and farmers on the lookout to mow and condition at higher speeds, while producing better quality hay and forage,…

Fendt enters NZ harvest market

Farm machinery brand Fendt has expanded into the harvester market in Australia and New Zealand, with is Ideal combine harvester.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

He's back!

OPINION: This old mutt understands that former Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings has landed himself a new gig back in his…

Utu?

OPINION: Your canine crusader understands that the farmer’s favourite politician – Environment Minister David Parker – not content with implementing…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter