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 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.
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.