Drones and automated vehicles

Autonomous ag machinery code of practice takes shape

Liz Wells, October 21, 2020

A DRAFT code of practice (COP) covering the development and application of autonomous machinery in agriculture has been drawn up and distributed to stakeholders for feedback.

Instigated by Grain Producers Australia (GPA) last year, the COP has been formulated through consultation with state farming organisations, the Tractor and Machinery Association (TMA), machinery companies and the Society of Precision Agriculture Australia (SPAA).

GPA chair Andrew Weidemann said the development of the draft document had been driven by the grains sector. It had now been released to stakeholders for consideration and feedback.

“Other industries have been looking closely at what we have been doing in the grains industry in the formation of this. There is a lot of international interest as well,” he said.

“The aim is to standardise the approach and give people an indication of what is required. It gives a level of safety around autonomous vehicles running around paddocks and it gives people a standard to work to in manufacturing.”

Mr Weidemann said the development of the COP would encourage the adoption of automated tractors and machinery and create new investment opportunities.

“Once there is confidence in the sector to go down this pathway, we believe it will open the door for a lot more investment in autonomous vehicles for agriculture,” he said.

“It is essentially a voluntary code. The industry is taking charge of itself. In the long term there will be structure in place, probably around GPA.”

Consultant adviser Rohan Rainbow said the development of the code had been driven by producer needs.

“It is very much about how automation is implemented and used on a farm,” he said.

However, Dr Rainbow said it was an industry-wide code of practice that would serve to standardise the approach to automation for manufacturers, importers, distributors, dealers and producers.

“We are having industry discussions about the detail and content. The code of practice is for a complicated technology, so consequently there is a fair bit of detail. It is very difficult to eliminate that detail. There will be content developed to support training and induction,” he said.

Dr Rainbow said proponents had tried to write a code of practice that was going to be reasonably future proof.

“We are recommending that 12 to 18 months after we see the major commercialisation of autonomous machines that it is reviewed. Is there anything we need to tweak that we didn’t foresee?” he said.

The code will be for in-field, on-farm operation only and will not cover the on-road use of autonomous equipment.

 

 

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