Robotics and Autonomous Equipment
The United States definitely doesn’t lead the world in autonomous agricultural equipment development or use. Although the U.S. military probably is the leader in autonomous operating systems, and there really isn’t much of a reason why this precision technology cannot be transferred from military to agriculture except for cost of sensors and communications systems.
“As a company, we recognized that you cannot take guys who have operated for the military or the government and expect them to be successful in operating a for-profit business in a sector like agriculture,” said Young Kim, general manager for BOSH Precision Agriculture.
The government works with very different metrics of success than a for-profit business. “The military cares less about economics and more about outcome,” said Kim.
But Kim is going against his own rule to a degree switching from supplying to the military to an entrepreneur business philosophy of offering service to the agricultural industry at the yet-to-be approved level of unmanned autonomous aerial systems.
Kim provided his concept of making a positive economic impact in agriculture with an autonomous helicopter and spraying service during the Ag Connect Expo and Summit in Kansas City at the end of January.
OTHER POINTS OF VIEW
Helicopter spraying with unmanned aerial systems could replace manned helicopters if government regulations would allow. Also, providing insight into the autonomous/robotic vehicles potential and state of the industry was Mel Torrie, president and chief executive officer of Autonomous Solutions, and Stewart Moorehead, manager of robotic systems with John Deere Technology Innovation Center.
Torrie says a lot of robotic/autonomous vehicle technology can go from research to field for agriculture and mining. Large-scale equipment is appropriate for both industries, but mining operations are done in a much more controlled environment than agriculture. Autonomous trucks for hauling mine diggings are already in use.
String technology has been used by the military for a caravan of trucks in the Middle East with the lead truck being the only one human driven. The technology is already in field demonstration by ag equipment manufacturers for offset tillage and harvest operations by two or more tractors or combines. Torrie sees it as the method of moving autonomous equipment from one field to another.
“Our approach is to develop incremental autonomy with the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and then incubate full autonomy with large end users,” the company executive said.