Trials of a robotic driverless tractor are looking good in Australia. The work is a joint program among Rice Research Australia, Japanese companies Hitachi Zosen Corporation and Yanmar Co. and three Australian universities.

The study seeks to verify that advanced positioning signals transmitted from Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System can be used in precision farming, reports Roderick Makim for the Australian and British emphasis publication, The Land.

"It is meeting all expectations...it's accuracy is very good," Makim quoted Rice Research Australia Manager Russell Ford as saying. "It seems a bit out there, but when you see it, you realize it's not far away (from being widely used by farmers).”

But once he was quoted as saying its not that far away, Ford was further quoted as suggesting not far away is something like 10 to 15 years before being “a reality.”

The potential of driverless tractors has already been proven by U.S. equipment manufacturers for some specific tasks such as running side by side with a moving combine for grain to be unloaded into a tender grain trailer.

All types of crop production practices are being investigated in Australia for use of the driverless tractor such as cultivation, spreading fertilizer and even operating crop sensors to detect plant nitrogen levels as it proceeds through a field. Many more trials are planned.