Auto turnaround a step toward autonomous operations

Raven Industries has improved its visual guidance system (VSN) with the addition of two new features — full canopy guidance and automatic row turnaround.

“Automatic row turnaround is a feature that enables that operator to program in a speed and a geometry in which they want to turn and the system will automatically detect that boundary and do that turn for them,” said Travis Bunde, sales manager at Raven.

Users create a boundary when they input their fields, and the system will use this information to generate the auto-turnaround paths.

Bunde said the new feature will enable operators to stay in the field longer because they will no longer have to disengage the auto steering system and grab the steering wheel to make the headland turns.

“It’s better consistency and in general operator fatigue is less, and you can have an operator with maybe less experience being able to operate the machine and provide a top quality application,” Bunde said.

The automatic row turnaround feature warns operators to slow down when approaching the edge of a field and then it begins the turn and automatically guides the machine to the next pass.

The automatic turnaround is another step Raven has taken toward autonomous applications.

“Rate control is autonomous, we’ve now made boom leaving autonomous, we’ve had auto guidance. Now we’re adding that next component of autonomy where the system will recognize the headlands,” Bunde said.

He said there are differences in what the company is doing with the VSN and Viper 4, Raven’s networked platform that integrates the companies full line of guidance products, and the autonomous agricultural robot, DOT, that Raven recently acquired.

With DOT the entire field is mapped and operators will know exactly where the system is going to go through the field ahead of time. Whereas the Viper 4 develops guidance solutions in real time.

The automatic row turnaround will be released in the fall of 2020.

The other update to the VSN Raven is coming out with is full canopy guidance that uses non-contact radar sensors to guide machines in full canopy crops at speeds exceeding 18 mph.

Before this update, the VSN was a camera-based system that looked down at several rows of a crop, recognized the row and then developed guidance solutions for sprayers to follow the crop rows.

However, once the crop was more than 1.2 to 1.5 metres tall, it became difficult for cameras to detect the crop rows.

“We typically say we can operate up to 90 percent canopy with VSN with just the camera solution, but after that the camera has a difficult time in developing a solution,” Bunde said.

“We mount two radar sensors on the front wheel legs of the sprayer. What they are able to do is they can look across multiple rows and see the stock of the plants and can see multiple rows across.”

Instead of trying to see through the top of the canopy, the radar sensors look underneath the canopy to detect the crop rows.

Bunde said the radar sensors offer a non-contact solution that does not rely on a feeler arm that rubs up against the crop stocks like other row guidance systems.

“It limits any damage or issues with the mechanical components that can break off or fail,” he said.

Also, if an inside crop row happens to be missing, systems that use feeler arms are left hanging, while the Raven’s radar can see multiple rows and will not be affected in such cases.

The full canopy guidance system was developed for corn and sorghum; however it can help detect and follow sprayer tracks in other crops.

“Say you have a wheat field, and you’ve sprayed across it and you’ve ran over the rows with that first pass, when you come over that again we can detect that those rows are missing and we will develop a solution using the tram lines of the wheel tracks that have already been put in,” Bunde said.

He said this will enable operators to be less dependent on GPS guidance to stay within their existing tracks.

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