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Automatic Guidance of a Tractor in a Vineyard

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Pp. 252-260 in Automation Technology for Off-Road Equipment, Proceedings of the July 26-27, 2002 Conference (Chicago, Illinois, USA)  701P0502.(doi:10.13031/2013.10014)
Authors:   O. Yekutieli, F. Garbati Pegna
Keywords:   Automatic guidance, Automation, Sensor arm, Tractor modeling

The control of pests, diseases and weeds in vineyards is a time-consuming task that sometimes exposes the operators to the danger of contamination with hazardous chemicals. For example, in Tuscany tractor drivers have to go through the rows from 6 to 12 times each year, to execute the necessary operations. A solution to these problems could be the use of automatically controlled tractors, since a vineyard with its parallel rows of plants seems to be an appropriate place for automatic guidance. In the present study, a device for automatic guidance of a crawler tractor was developed through three stages: 1. Computer simulation to decide which control system and sensors to choose. 2. Experiments with a model tractor.

3. Experiments with two kinds of sensor arms in a vineyard.

From the experiments it seems that with only a two-stage ON/OFF control and a simple curved sensor arm or a sensor arm consisting of two hinged parts, it is possible to guide a crawler tractor automatically in a vineyard, with the vine trees used as a guidance line. It appears that no damage is done to the trees. In the end of the rows the tractor executes a "free" turn until the sensor arm touches the next row. In the experiments of the third stage, the tractor was controlled by a driver who followed control signals coming from five lamps connected to the control system. In the future a fully automatic steering system, which is still under development, could be installed in the driver's place.

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