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Danish Technological Institute, Denmark - IFR R&D Institute

Tractors should drive without drivers

October 2011

The German tractor manufacturer Claas is one of the partners in the trans-European QUAD-AV project to develop autonomous farming vehicles. (Photo: Claas)  European partners develop autonomous farming vehicles - The romantic picture of a farmer with a straw in his mouth on a chugging tractor in the countryside, will over time become a sight of the past. Agriculture will become automated, and driverless tractors will plough, harrow and seed the fields.

"Autonomous vehicles will gain ground in agriculture and increase efficiency and productivity. To make autonomous vehicles operate safely, they must have the ability to perceive and interpret the elements of danger in the concerned environment", says robot consultant at the Danish Technological Institute's Centre for Robot Technology, Anders Petersen.

He is leader of the European project QUAD-AV (Ambient Awareness for Autonomous Agricultural Vehicles), which the Danish Food Industry Agency under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries has granted funding for, and which the German research institution Fraunhofer, the French research institution Cemagref, the Italian University of Salento, the German tractor and harvester manufacturer Claas and the Danish Technological Institute are partners in.

"The project focuses on developing sensors and methods for data processing, allowing vehicles to become aware of their surroundings by detecting obstacles such as differences in the landscape, physical installations on the field and humans and animals that are present in the environment", tells Anders Petersen.

The project partners combine selected sensor technologies to achieve combined and enhanced effect. The partners combine four types of sensor technologies: stereo vision, radar, ladar and thermography. Existing state-of-the-art sensors are adjusted and coupled, enabling demonstration in an agricultural context. The sensors are mounted on an autonomous tractor, and the technologies are tested in relevant scenarios. The gathered data forms the foundation for development of new techniques to process and merge sensor data with an eye to detection of obstacles in the field.

"The selected methods can increase the safety of agricultural vehicles. Safety is particularly important for humans and animals, but the farmer naturally wants to avoid damage to equipment and property," says Anders Petersen.

Please visit the project website for more information

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