16 November 2001

More accuracy with driverless navigation

ONE year after putting it on the market, Munich firm Geo Tec says it has sold 12 of its driverless field navigation systems, 10 in Germany and two in Holland.

Called Agro Nav, the system uses GPS signals and a base station to give 50-100mm accuracy. There are also gyroscopic movement sensors to provide additional information on front-to-rear and side-to-side positioning and accelerometers to detect roll and pitch.

Geo Tecs Friedrich Sterlemann says Agro Nav can lose GPS signals for up to two minutes (for instance when the tractor goes under power lines) and still keep on course.

Most of those who have bought the 120,000DM Agro Nav system in the last year have been big farmers/ contractors with high-value crops. Or else research organisations.

But the aim is not to have a totally driverless tractor, says Mr Sterlemann, not just for safety reasons but in case theres a blockage or malfunction.

He foresees many situations where a human operator could be on one tractor, while the other guides itself. One of the buyers, apparently, plans to drive the power harrow/drill combination himself, while the on-land plough pilots itself.

"The main reason why people are buying the system is for accuracy rather than saving a man," he adds. "Research data shows that people using a cultivator typically overlap by 10-15%, while this system drives much more accurately. We reckon the investment can be paid back in two years." &#42

Agro Nav system means less manpower and better driving accuracy.