FARM EQUIPMENT REVIEW: March 2006
By Top Crop Manager
GPS and guidance systems
Over the last year, dozens of new models and designs of farm machinery
have been introduced by manufacturers. Many of you will have seen these
introductions at farm shows and in various industry announcements –
but, can you remember the details? This feature provides a reference
of GPS-based guidance and monitoring systems introductions.
Peter Darbishire, Editor
While Top Crop Manager editors make every effort to
be objective when reporting on new products, they cannot be held responsible
for claims made by companies. Readers are encouraged to contact the
companies for more details.
Price-comparable to foam markers
CenterLine 220 is a versatile and simple GPS guidance system for any field operation.
It is a compact, economical solution for growers interested in lightbar guidance.
CenterLine 220 features two modes of operation – straight-line (parallel)
and curved AB. The unit's large graphical display clearly shows off-track direction
and distance along with swath number, ground speed, selected guidance mode and
whether a return point has been stored. An alternate map page shows a bird's-eye
view of the vehicle position and heading in relation to the desired path.
In addition, CenterLine 220 is compact and designed for easy portability from
vehicle to vehicle. Operational as soon as it is connected to a power source,
CenterLine 220 is easy to use and set up is accomplished in just a few seconds.
The CenterLine 220 features a high quality internal WAAS compatible GPS receiver,
with 5Hz position update, in a durable housing with a sealed rubber keypad.
A small external GPS antenna connects to the unit and is mounted on the vehicle
roof. Additionally, the unit provides a GPS-derived vehicle speed as a radar
compatible ground speed signal for use with other control systems.
Mid-Tech's Tilt Compensation Module detects when the vehicle experiences a
sideways tilt causing the GPS antenna to be shifted away from the centerline
of the vehicle and a position error to result. The module corrects the position
for more accurate guidance.
The Tilt Compensation Module features three diagnostic LEDs, indicating the
status of the module; its power status, operating status and the status of incoming
GPS data. The sensor has an accuracy rate of ±1.0 degree. It is compatible
with CenterLine, Swath XL and GuideLine guidance systems as well as the Legacy
6000 precision farming system. -30-
Steering and touch-screen
Raven Industries' recent introductions include the Envizio guidance system which
features a 3D colour touch-screen. It can be used alone or interfaced with existing
Raven lightbars or SmarTrax.
SmarTrax DM steering assist is another addition to the system: it includes
the Raven 410 receiver, SmarTrax software and the Raven GPS enhancer. Controllers,
lightbars and HydraSteer kits are sold separately.
A new RPR 410 GPS antenna and receiver offers sub-metre to decimetre accuracy.
Hemisphere GPS has introduced a new heading sensor module for Original Equipment
Manufacturers (OEMs) that features the high performance Crescent GPS technology.
The Crescent Vector OEM module, a printed circuit board, is a complete GPS
compass and positioning system designed primarily for the marine market but
also very applicable for other markets including agriculture and machine control.
In addition to its discreet Crescent GPS components, the module integrates
a single-axis gyro and a tilt sensor. Its heading accuracy ranges from 0.1 degrees
(rms) at 2.0 metre antenna separation to minus 0.25 degrees (rms) at 0.5 metre
antenna separation. It provides heading and positioning updates of up to 20Hz,
and delivers positioning accuracy of 20cm 95 percent of the time when used with
Crescent's L-Dif differential GPS (DGPS) receiver product, and 50cm 95 percent
of the time when used with WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) DGPS
The Crescent Vector OEM module also features Hemisphere's exclusive COAST
software that enable Hemisphere receivers to utilize old DGPS correction data
for 40 minutes or more without significantly affecting the quality of positioning.
When using COAST, the Crescent Vector OEM is less likely to be affected by differential
signal outages due to signal blockages, weak signals or interference.
The Outback S2 builds on the success of Hemisphere's Outback S guidance system.
Integrating the new Crescent receiver technology into the Outback S2 enables
it to achieve a 50 percent increase in accuracy and performance over previous
models, says the company.
Crescent technology also enables the Outback S2 to achieve faster start-up
and GPS signal acquisition times; improved update rates of 10Hz; lower power
consumption and radar-simulated ground speed output.
The Outback S2 is an easy-to-install, easy-to-use, low cost guidance system
featuring a robust 10Hz differential GPS WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System)
receiver and Steering Guide. It enables operators to drive straight rows, with
no skipped areas and minimal overlaps, to achieve major cost savings in fuel,
fertilizer and virtually all other production input costs.
Reduce overlaps and misses
Terradox Corporation has introduced its TRC Terrain Compensation Technology
option for its award-winning SiteWinder GPS guidance system for agricultural
When operating on hilly terrain, the vehicle pitches and rolls causing the
GPS antenna to swing away from the centerline of the vehicle. This results in
a position error that leads to gaps and overlaps between swaths and other mapping
TRC's advanced Dual-Axis Tilt Sensor continuously monitors terrain errors while
driving or even when the vehicle is stopped. SiteWinder uses this information
in real-time to correct its guidance and mapping display. The result is an automatic
correction that further reduce gaps and overlaps to improve mapping accuracy.
This translates into increased savings on fuel and other input costs.
Affordable terrain compensation
Ag Leader's T2 technology greatly improves accuracy and performance on slopes,
rough terrain and sudden heading changes. Steering performance is improved with
70 percent less wheel movement. The T2 technology is an option for new and existing
EZ-Steer and EZ-Guide Plus users.
The EZ-Steer system provides assisted steering for agricultural vehicles with
6.0 to 12 inch pass-to-pass accuracy. It uses GPS and an electric motor mounted
on the steering column to keep the vehicle on line without the use of hydraulics.
The EZ-Steer system uses the guidance from the EZ-Guide Plus lightbar and automatically
turns the steering wheel.
Ag Leader's DirectCommand granular system performs fixed rate or prescription
map control of up to five products at once. It controls spinner spreaders, strip-till
toolbars and air-carts that use motorized servo or PWM hydraulic valves for
rate control. The DirectCommand granular system supports the use of bin level
sensors for on-screen warning of low product levels and fan speed sensors to
provide spinner or fan speed readout.
The simple to use application report feature helps meet product application
and restricted-use pesticide record keeping needs. Enter the temperature, wind
speed, EPA number and soil condition (temperature and moisture) and the Insight
display creates a report as a pdf file on a memory card – including a map
with legend, total volume/area applied as well as other system and user supplied
data. The application report can be used for government-required record keeping,
or for custom applicators who can supply it to their customers as supporting
documentation for invoicing services provided.
The AutoSwath feature automatically shuts off individual boom sections as the
sprayer enters and exits previously applied areas, this is especially useful
around point rows and field borders where over-application and skips are most
likely to occur. The Insight display can record multiple sub-boundaries within
a field for use by the AutoSwath feature around waterways and terraces. This
allows AutoSwath to turn individual boom sections on and off when passing in
and out of these field areas.
Ag Leader Technology
Automatic steering improves productivity
AGCO has equipped several models with new or upgraded GPS-based electronics
from Global Technologies.
New Massey Ferguson combines will be equipped with the GTA Console II with
its Fieldstar II yield monitor. Included is the capacity to download data to
a PC; a warning system if harvested grain moisture exceeds a pre-set limit;
and a 10.4 inch colour touch-screen.
Auto-Guide is an automatic navigation system that works in step with Massey
Ferguson's Dyna-Stop transmissions for 180 to 240 PTO horsepower tractors. The
GTA Console I and Datatronics III control system help manage engine functions
as well as wheel-slip and fuel use. The system is also available on AGCO's Fendt
and high horsepower AGCO DT tractors.
Trimble has added its AgGPS EZ-Steer system to its line-up. The assisted
steering system, which includes the EZ-Guide Plus lightbar and EZ-Steer, with
±6.0 to 8.0 inch pass-to-pass accuracy (95 percent of the time).
The EZ-Steer assisted steering system uses GPS and an electric motor mounted
on the steering column to keep the vehicle on line without the use of hydraulics.
It uses the GPS guidance from the EZ-Guide Plus lightbar and automatically turns
the steering wheel.
The AgGPS 332 Ultimate Choice receiver offers growers the most flexibility
in choosing the GPS correction method and accuracy required for their farming
operations, says Trimble. This gives growers the ability to obtain pass-to-pass
performance with Trimble guidance systems ranging from 1.0 inch pass-to-pass
with the Trimble RTK solution, to 3.0 to 5.0 inch with OmniSTAR XP, to 2.0 to
4.0 inch with HP satellite service.
Steering to management
John Deere has expanded its AutoTrac guidance capabilities with AutoTrac SF1,
which gives customers more choices to match this technology with their own vehicles,
crop production plans and techniques. AutoTrac SF1 offers an economical system
with 13 inch pass-to-pass accuracy to help operators make consistent, straight
passes through the field.
This new system is for broadacre applications that do not require row-crop
accuracy. There is no subscription fee for the StarFire SF1 differential correction
signal. The system uses the three common components; the StarFire iTC SF1 receiver,
the GreenStar display, and a mobile processor with an AutoTrac SF1 Key Card.
These components can be moved to any AutoTrac-ready vehicle.
Deere's new AutoTrac universal steering kit will make it possible to run assisted-steering
systems on additional vehicles. The base components of the AutoTrac universal
steering kit will continue to be the three GreenStar common components listed
above. Kits are currently being developed for 7000/7010 Series MFWD Tractors,
50/55/60 Series MFWD Tractors, and 60/70 Series 4WD Tractors. Other vehicles
and machine platforms will be approved as testing is completed.
As farm management becomes more complex with increased field documentation
requirements, crop systems record keeping, and new guidance technology operation
and maintenance, John Deere has introduced GreenStar Apex to help producers
simplify their precision agriculture management.
GreenStar Apex has been designed from the ground up to give more flexibility,
regardless of cropping practices. New user-friendly features such as standardized
setup lists, automated unloading processes, and incorporated guidance features
reduce the amount of time needed for data management and allows more time for
overall operational management.
Apex is designed to be highly compatible with GreenStar data but the new software
also directly unloads information from third-party systems. By incorporating
GSDNet to transfer data directly between Apex and third-party service providers,
the user will have access to data from other software packages. This flexibility
will bring even more value to the Apex software system.