Contractors (or harvest students) on unfamiliar farms who routinely struggle to find a far-flung field will be pleased to know that GPS technology is about to come to their aid.
As part of its FarmPilot telematics system, German electronics giant Muller and communications firm Arvato Systems are about to launch a unit that combines GPS guidance/autosteer with car-style satnav.
So the tractor driver will be able to use the satnav facility to guide him along the right roads. Then, as soon as he turns into the field, the system will switch over to conventional field-scale GPS guidance.
It can also be used to set up a master/slave arrangement where one combine/forage/beet harvester is being emptied by several tractors and trailers. All the tractors are set to guide their drivers straight to the harvester via satnav and GPS, even if the harvester itself moves to another field.
It will also allow a telematics-style linkup whereby sensors on the tractor, combine or other self-propelled machine will record on-the-go information on forward speeds, shaft speeds, machine setup and even how long the machine has stopped for. That is then sent to the farm office via the GPRS mobile phone network. It can even alert the farmer if the machine has been stolen and tell him where it has moved to.