The autopilot tractor is already a “classic” in our agriculture

The autopilot tractor is already a “classic” in our agriculture

Autonomous tractors rely on GPS navigation to move independently on arable land. They have a driver in the cab, but he does not drive – his role is only to supply gas and most of all to monitor the smooth operation of the machine. Typically, self-government relies on a combination of satellite data and a ground base station. It maintains constant communication with the tractor and the GPS system (dGPS – differential GPS, which achieves high accuracy in agricultural applications). The accuracy of the systems developed in this way is already so good that the potential discrepancy or overlap is only about 2 centimeters. This is where one of the main arguments in favor of technology lies: human drivers are good, but they tend to overlap the “strips” to avoid processing failures.

Autopilot tractors are already a classic in agricultural machinery in our country, just as cars with navigation are something quite natural for the modern driver. Almost all suppliers of agricultural machinery in the country offer at least one model with built-in functionality for autopilot. There are already numerous proposals for upgrading autonomous control systems – for the modernization of existing tractors. Manufacturers and importers are adamant that there is no longer a large agricultural producer in Bulgaria that does not use autopilot machines. A similar level of automation paved the way for other innovations in robotics and precision agriculture, was seen during the exhibition BATA AGRO, held last week in Stara Zagora. The icing on the cake in this regard was the debut of a fully autonomous “tractor” that doesn’t even have a driver’s cab. Most exhibitors of agricultural machinery of BATA AGRO 2021 showed at least one model of tractor with built-in functionality for autopilot. In addition to the traditional tractors with attached equipment, other autonomous agricultural machines, such as sprayers, were demonstrated at the exhibition.

There were also numerous proposals for additional modular autonomous control systems. They can be used to upgrade existing tractors. They consist of a GPS antenna, a receiver and a screen for monitoring the “strips”, as well as a steering wheel control module, plus a base station (RTK). With the help of modules, machines with autopilot can become autonomous almost all devices moving in the agricultural fields, covering the various economic activities – sowing, spraying, fertilizing, etc. Precise fertilization

When tractors are able to move almost autonomously on arable land – and for this purpose have a corresponding digital map of the agricultural land – the most common next step in automation is the differentiated feeding of the soil through the so-called variable fertilization rate. This means that, depending on the area of ​​agricultural land, the fertilizer feeder automatically changes the concentration of the feed mixture. Usually, in order for this to happen, a soil analysis is made with samples from different parts of the terrain before sowing. However, more and more companies are striving for up-to-date dosing of the preparations in real time, according to the needs of the plantations. Some self-driving tractor kits also include a device that scans the last (latest) leaf of the crop: by analyzing its color and light reflectivity, the device “diagnoses” possible deficiencies of certain micronutrients in the soil. Thus, fertilizers can be dosed literally on site, according to the needs of the plants in real time.

Another current method for scanning and mapping the deficits in the soil composition is now flying with drones with specialized spectrographic cameras. Drone spraying As part of farm automation, farmers are increasingly resorting to spraying drones of all kinds. The most common application is treatment with plant protection products. In some cases, however, greenhouse owners use drones to spray the greenhouses themselves with shading paint (it is common practice to cover greenhouses with paint during the hottest months to reduce the amount of solar radiation that enters the greenhouses, respectively overheating. ).

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