FARM EQUIPMENT REVIEW: Jan 05 W
Guidance systems and GPS
November 15, 2007 By Top Crop Manager
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.
Applications for GPS based technology are being introduced at a furious pace.
Users are quickly learning the field productivity gains from reducing overlaps
and misses, as well as the ability to work with accuracy after dusk and before
dawn while reducing driver fatigue.
Systems are available as original equipment and as retrofits to existing machinery.
The question is: which one is priced right and has the features that suit your
operation? Here is a synopsis of the recently announced models:
GPSteer from CSI Wireless automatically steers agricultural vehicles along consistently
straight or curved rows. Drivers only need to use the steering wheel when turning
at the end of each row. They engage GPSteer when starting a row, and the system
automatically disengages when they begin turning at the end of the row.
GPSteer functions with a variety of CSI/Satloc branded GPS receivers, including
the SLXg3 and AgIQ, and with competing GPS receivers. It is competitively priced,
the company says.
GPSteer features unique technology that enables an automatic steering system
to constantly compare where a vehicle is heading with where it should be heading.
GPSteer uses this information to make subtle corrections to maintain the vehicle
on its proper heading without the over-steering that would create oscillating
or zig-zag patterns across the field. -30-
Can read in bright sun
Case IH has made improvements to its EZ-Guide Plus lightbar. A 160 x 120 pixel
LCD screen allows for simplified set-up, continuous situation monitoring and
improved guidance in curves and during end-of-row turns. It can be switched
between four text-based screens, a plan view map, or a perspective view map.
The system can accurately support a variety of both straight and curved swath
The EZ-Guide Plus lightbar uses differential GPS information to display how
far to the left or right an operator might be from the desired path. Depending
on the operator's equipment needs, the lightbar is available with or without
an integrated, 12 channel GPS receiver that utilizes the free WAAS differential
Three integrated buttons provide a simple interface for all configurations
and operations. An optional six button keypad improves convenience and ease
of operation, and includes an audible warning alarm to alert operators when
they drift from the swath, crosses the headland, or the DGPS correction signal
is lost. -30-
John Deere has introduced the GreenStar component, StarFire iTC. The receiver
combines dual frequency GPS technology with terrain compensation functionality
to improve accuracy over rough and rolling terrain.
The integrated Terrain Compensation (iTC) is a navigational aid that enhances
the vehicle position and course heading in relationship to the GPS signal. In
the past, an add-on Terrain Compensation Module was used when side-slopes or
rough terrain presented challenges to the GreenStar guidance system, but now
every StarFire iTC will meet those challenges as a result of the integrated
StarFire iTC is also fully upgradeable. Users may start with the SF2 system,
but then want more accuracy and repeatability. They can convert to StarFire
RTK with sub-inch accuracy, without purchasing an entirely new receiver.
Diagnostics have also been improved on the new receivers. Since GPS signals
tend to be intermittent, new data log charts have been increased to provide
one hour of performance history. The data log measures GPS accuracy, GPS signal
quality and differential signal quality. Operators can measure how well the
system is working over a sustained period of time.
The StarFire iTC also outputs a radar pulse signal to allow operators to use
the StarFire iTC in place of current add-on radars for use with third-party
Other improvements include a lighter weight, smaller profile and a sleeker
look. The yellow dome is sealed with an airtight connector and the latch can
be padlocked for additional security. A RTK radio (if equipped) is concealed
within the receiver bracket. -30-
Added functionality and simplified operation are the key benefits of new software
releases announced by Spraying System's Midwest Technologies (Mid-Tech). The
CenterLine lightbar guidance system with wireless remote control features new
operating modes, and a new SmartPad handheld computer for the Swath XL and Guideline
lightbar guidance systems adds enhancements.
For spraying, seeding and other tasks, the compact, economical CenterLine lightbar
guidance system guides operators in swaths with repeatable accuracy. Once the
driving pattern has been set, CenterLine determines the closest swath for guidance.
New software now includes a Curved AB guidance mode so operators can steer along
curved lines in addition to the straight and headland modes previously available.
Other CenterLine software enhancements include the use of a GPS-only mode for
operation without differential corrections. DGPS remains the default setting.
A method of showing the current guidance mode has been incorporated into the
updated software and additional language support has been added to increase
the options to nine.
The upgraded handheld computer features a colour touch-screen display and a
new ergonomic design. The handheld unit includes enhanced software with many
new capabilities including a field and hazard mapping application, the ability
to connect directly to a GPS receiver and an option to operate on battery power.
In addition, the SmartPad II is compatible with the CenterLine guidance system,
adding on-screen mapping and data collection capabilities to this popular lightbar.
The SmartPad II also offers compact flash data storage, durable armoured design
and dedicated keys for lightbar brightness and screen brightness. -30-
Choose accuracy level
Trimble has introduced the AgGPS Autopilot automated steering system for growers
who farm on contours or simply want to follow the lay of their land. With the
ability to follow the curves of contour farming, headlands or irrigation pivots,
the system calculates the curved swath automatically and drives the swath, within
inches, after driving and recording the first curve in the field. Two different
types of curved patterns have been added, identical and adaptive curves. Identical
curves, created from the first curve driven, and adaptive curves, created from
the last path driven. Adaptive curve patterns neatly combine automated steering
and obstacle avoidance.
Headlands, like curves, can be used in two different ways: the standard headland
patterns or a round pattern to the centre of the field.
Trimble's new EZ-Guide 252 system enables operators to choose their required
level of GPS accuracy to manually steer equipment such as tractors, sprayers,
fertilizer applicators, air-seeders, combines and large tillage tools in consistent
rows. The investment in the EX-Guide 252 system is modular and can be upgraded
to Real Time Kinematic (RTK) sub-inch accuracy recommended for use with the
Trimble AgGPS Autopilot automated steering system. The multi-function, high
performance receiver is a rugged, all-in-one smart antenna design. -30-
Fits more models
Outback has extended its list of equipment for which it has complete, model
specific, installation kits for its eDrive GPS assisted steering system. A growing
number of models, now at 192, include combines, tractors and self-propelled
sprayers from the following brands: Case IH, John Deere, Apache, Hagie, Willmar,
Buhler, Spra-Coupe, New Holland and Ag-Chem. -30-
Accurate for uneven terrain
The new Fieldstar yield monitoring system yield sensor from Global Technology
by AGCO (GTA) is more accurate and simpler to operate than existing yield monitor
technology. It is unaffected by temperature changes, can move from one crop
to another and back with a single calibration per crop to significantly reduce
slope induced error. Now available on all new Gleaner, Challenger and Massey
Ferguson combines, retrofitting and upgrading packages will also be available
for most recent AGCO combine models as well.
All recent model AGCO combines share a common grain elevator head design. The
head design allows for placement of a mass flow sensor that monitors all the
grain moving through the elevator shaft. The full-width impact target also reduce
the need to calibrate due to seed size, variety or hybrid changes and changing
harvest conditions. Accompanying software recognizes changes in elevator speed
and automatically corrects sensor flow rates for constant accuracy. The new
design also allows elevator head maintenance without sensor removal. -30-
Cut full width
The GreenStar AutoTrac is now available for (later model) 50 and 60 series combines.
AutoTrac for combines can be factory or field installed. All components are
fully integrated for easy and convenient operation, says the company.
Based on the Parallel Tracking platform, GreenStar AutoTrac is an assisted-steering
system that uses the three common components, GreenStar display, mobile processor
and StarFire position receiver, with which many customers are already familiar.
It offers growers a high level of convenience and productivity in the field
The system improves machine efficiency by steering so that the combine cuts
the full width of the platform in small grains and soybeans, reducing overall
grain loss, reducing passes in the field and increasing acres covered per hour
by the combine. The operator will experience less fatigue because AutoTrac will
reduce the need for constant steering adjustments.
The AutoTrac steering system is controlled by the Steering System Unit (SSU),
which is located under the cab. The SSU takes information from the GreenStar
components and provides signals to the electrohydraulic valve to guide the combine.
The operator is still responsible for turning the combine at the end of each
pass and for steering around field obstacles such as trees and waterways when
harvesting. The operator can always regain steering control of the combine by
simply turning the steering wheel. -30-
Easy to install and use
The OnTrac system is designed for straight and contour pattern steering. By
taking full advantage of the advanced colour graphics of the Cultiva ATC, the
OnTrac can be operated with ease. The ATC display shows what is in front of
the vehicle, up to 300ft, including the path to follow, even if it has several
curves in it. This means the operator can anticipate oncoming adjustments way
ahead of what a lightbar system offers.
The system is operated by lining up the vehicle close to the swath to be tracked,
then it will engage automatically. The ATC will show graphically, and in feet,
the approaching headland. When entering the headland, OnTrac will disengage
automatically without needing to press a button or use the steering wheel. At
any time, the operator can grab the steering wheel and steer to avoid an obstacle
or to override the OnTrac system.
The optional Tilt Sensor takes into account any lateral deviation from the
direction of travel caused by rolling movement due to sloping terrain.
The main computer inside the Cultiva ATC converts and saves DGPS signal inputs
in a high precision trajectory representation. This information as well as current
position, heading and speed of the vehicle is used by the ATC to compute steering
instructions at a rate of five times per second. -30-