Home > Driverless Tractors: Case IH Predicts the Future of Precision Agriculture

Driverless Tractors: Case IH Predicts the Future of Precision Agriculture

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Commercially viable driverless vehicles are just around the corner, according to Case IH Marketing Manager Stuart BrownThe future of precision agriculture is full of exciting possibilities, including driverless vehicles equipped with safe detection technology that will lower overall cost of operation and increase return on investment. 

This is according to Stuart Brown, Case IH Marketing Manager, who predicts that commercially viable driverless vehicles are just around the corner. The demand for this technology is driven by shortages of skilled farm labour and ever increasing competition, especially on a global scale. “The costs of maintaining a skilled labour force are rising, especially in the area of OH&S compliance. Our new product developments are aimed at making machines easier to operate and our plans for a fully autonomous vehicle will enable customers to dramatically lower their labour force costs.”

Case IH has been refining its autonomous vehicle technology for over a decade. “There is still work to be done on enhancing the systems’ dynamic object detection capabilities to avoid collisions and ensure a safe environment,” Stuart commented. “As well, we’re working on the vehicles’ ability to think for itself and complete condition-responsive tasks such as automatic adjustments of rotor and fan speed, sieve opening and header operation, in combines.” 

Cabin control consolidation is also an area of focus. “We foresaw the need for simple, automated control of key machine functions from the cabin and have been developing this technology over the past few years to provide operators with even better functionality and control. Earlier this year, we launched the Case IH AFS Pro 600, a large colour display which is fully transferrable between most other Case IH equipment.”

The AFS Pro 600 provides cabin control of precision agriculture technology, such as autoguidance and variable seeding rates. The software upgrades also delivered new features including paddock recognition to alleviate the need for operators to identify the individual fields they are working in, and boundary and obstacle recording to reduce the likelihood of running into obstacles such as trees and fences.

“Along with this, the vehicle recognition software ensures that when the system is swapped between machines, it will automatically recognise the machine and display those settings which were last used on that individual machine, again saving the operator time and effort.”

In the future, equipment software upgrades will be available via the Internet, which will make it easy for farmers to keep up-to-date. “Farmers will be able to log onto our website and get the latest software to enhance their system,” says Stuart.

For GPS driven systems, RTK is the most accurate system on offer today. However, according to Stuart, there’ll be a major leap forward in correctional signal technology that will significantly lower operating costs. 

“As time goes on and autonomous vehicles become a reality, equipment operators will become managers of process rather than operators of machinery,” he said. 

A growing number of industries will also move into precision agriculture, says Stuart. “Crop farmers such as cotton and veggie growers and broadacre farmers are the main users of the technology at present, but in the future, hay producers will also see the benefits that precision ag can bring, particularly in terms of yield mapping. They will be able to see what each of their paddocks are yielding and what they are using in terms of fertliser which will allow them to improve on their efficiencies similar to our broadacre farmers of today.”

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