Is this UK-designed ‘driverless’ tractor a practical proposition?

The so-called ‘Dynium Robot’ (pictured above) is the brain-child of a UK-based company.

Still at the prototype stage, the machine will soon undergo testing (on a farm). If this goes to plan, the company hopes to eventually make it available commercially.

To fund this eye-catching project, the company secured monies from Innovate UK; it also has research agreements in place with universities.

The entity’s office is based in Oxford (England); it has a test site at a farm in Herefordshire.

Fleshing out the idea

So where did the idea for a driverless, robotic tractor come from?

The company says that the field of agri-robotics has been evolving in a disparate manner – a manner that “does not suit farmers’ real working practices”.

It says that each robotic implement manufacturer is developing its own mobility system, with poor ‘interoperability’ – leading to hardware redundancy and high costs. This, says Dynium Robot, is at odds with the idea that a tractor should be a platform to be used for a wide variety of tasks.

That viewpoint prompted Dynium Robot to develop a new type of tractor – re-designed from the ground up for fully autonomous operation. The vision, it says, is to enable farmers to use autonomous robotics on their farms “without a need for technical knowledge or retro-fitting complex systems”.

It is making its autonomous tractor a platform for both traditional equipment (ploughs, mowers, sprayers, etc) and third-party robotics tools (precision sprayers, ‘smart’ sensors, etc).

The overall aim is to maximise usage and simplify the user experience.

The machine is equipped with a ‘standard’ three-point linkage – using well-known GKN Walterscheid components. The linkage has been designed with a bell crank to lower the vehicle’s centre of gravity, thereby improving its payload, and to enable 360° LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) visibility of an attached implement.

As well as LiDAR technology, 3D sensors are used – to enable the vehicle to “see” where’s it’s going and what it’s doing.

The machine also has a ‘standard’ PTO.

Usefully, an integral A-frame – at the other end of the vehicle – enables it to be carried by another tractor (for transport on the public road between farms).

Clamshell bodywork is designed to enable “easy and fast access” for engine servicing. The engine itself is a conventional diesel-powered unit; it’s mated to a hydrostatic transmission.

The company hopes that the machine’s modular design will facilitate a variety of build configurations down the line – for example, tracked and wheeled versions.

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