JOHN Deere last week unveiled its first entirely autonomous tractor for large-scale use at the CES 2022 Awards in Las Vegas, and said the machine is on course to be available to farmers in the US as early as this year.
However, farmers in Australia and elsewhere in the world look they could be in for a lengthy wait for the unit.
“The tractor will be available to a limited number of US customers for purchase this year before it is rolled out gradually to other countries, including Australia, over the next few years,” John Deere managing director Australia/New Zealand Luke Chandler said.
Combining John Deere’s 8R Tractor and TruSet-enabled chisel plough with a GPS guidance system, the machine is described by the manufacturer as being ideally suited to meet the demands of broadacre cropping in Australia with unprecedented efficiency.
“This autonomous tractor is an extremely exciting innovation that will help to ensure Australian farmers have the opportunity to adopt era-defining agtech to address these challenges and to support high-performing and sustainable farm businesses.”
The tractor operates within less than 2.5 centimetres of accuracy, and is continuously checking its position relative to a virtual geofence.
Six pairs of stereo cameras enable 360-degree obstacle detection and calculate distance, with the images captured by the cameras passing through a neural network that classifies each pixel in approximately 100 milliseconds.
This determines if the machine continues to move or stops, depending on if an obstacle is detected.
“Globally, Australian farmers have always led in the adoption of agtech, and as they continue to be faced with limited availability of skilled labour, access to autonomous machinery for large-scale production has never been so important,” John Deere Australia/New Zealand production systems manager Ben Kelly said.
“With this new tractor, it is as simple as transporting the machine to a field and configuring it for autonomous operation.
“Then, using John Deere Operations Center, farmers can swipe from left to right to start the machine and can leave the field to focus on other tasks, while monitoring its status from their mobile device.”
John Deere Operations Center provides access to live video, images and data, and allows farmers to adjust speed, depth and more from the mobile app.
In the event of job quality anomalies or machine health issues, farmers are notified remotely and can make adjustments to optimise the performance of the machine.
Source: John Deere