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Farmers Test Kinze’s Autonomous Harvest System in the Field

October 27, 2012
By: Margy Eckelkamp, Director of Content Development, Machinery Pete
p60 Follow the Combine 1
The Kinze Autonomous Harvest System allows the combine operator to control the tractor and grain cart without having a driver in the tractor seat.  

Three farmers test Kinze’s Autonomous Harvest System in the field

In the middle of harvest, Monmouth, Ill., farmer Rick Elliott got a call from one of his neighbors. "He was driving by and asked me, ‘Is there anyone in that grain cart tractor?" Elliott says.

There was no cause for alarm—the tractor was following the combine through the field, unloading on the go, without anyone in the cab. Elliott’s farm was one of three in Illinois testing the Kinze Autonomous Harvest System.

"After unveiling our project in July of 2011, we are excited to demonstrate it in the field," says Susie Veatch, vice president and chief marketing officer of Kinze Manufacturing, Inc.

The Kinze Autonomy Project started in the lab in 2009 and was tested on the Kinzenbaw farm until this year. The harvest fleet includes a combine, tractor and grain cart outfitted with GPS sensors and rugged computers. The system is controlled by the combine operator’s tablet computer,  eliminating the need for an operator in the tractor cab.

"The goals for this system are efficiency, productivity and safety," says Rhett Schildroth, Kinze product manager. "Farmers are experiencing a shortage in skilled operators for the seasonal work at harvest and planting. We also know that it’s key for the system to run as safe at the end of the day as it did at the beginning."

"Our system takes control of the tractor’s engine, transmission, steering and brakes," Schildroth explains.

Components on the tractor are: GPS receiver; inertial measurement sensors for hills; wheel  encoders; LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors; radar sensors for far-reaching sensing; and a camera to see what the systems sees.

Components on the combine are: an emergency stop button; GPS receiver; communication module that networks the machines; and a tablet computer, which is the user interface.

p62 Follow the Combine 2

The Kinze Autonomous Harvest System is controlled by a touch-screen tablet, as demonstrated by Rhett Schildroth, product manager.

How it works. The system performs in four modes: follow, unload, park and idle. In the follow mode, the tractornand grain cart follow the combine’s path through the field using GPS guidance. The system reads where the combine has operated and designates those areas as safe for travel. If obstacles are known or encountered in use, the operator marks them to be avoided.

When the combine is ready to be unloaded, the tractor and grain cart pull alongside it and sensors provide real-time reaction to any adjustments made by the combine in regard to speed and direction.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - November 2012

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