Autosteer Systems Continue To Evolve

John DeereMike Martinez, market manager for Trimble’s agriculture division, perhaps said it best when describing the heightened importance of GPS autosteer technology within the industry.

“Autosteering continues to be the most widely-adopted precision farming technology in the industry as it is the ‘core platform’ that all other precision farming activities are based on,” he says. “Without a solid auto-steering platform, other solutions may not have the return on investment (ROI) that a grower would expect.”

Austin Verbeck, marketing product manager for John Deere Ag Management Solutions, says that autosteer systems are becoming a prime target for growers looking for more than just improved profit margins.

“Producers are constantly looking to improve productivity in the field with less stress and fatigue on the operator, and these challenges are driving an increase in adoption of technologies, with automated guidance providing an entry level solution,” says Verbeck. “While automated guidance has been very popular in the North American agriculture industry for a while, we are now starting to see a growing interest on a global scale and expect that trend to continue.”

New Solutions

With GPS autosteering technologies having been available for quite some time now, manufacturers are flexing their muscles, upgrading system capabilities and specifications.

Trimble’s new xFill feature, a technology designed to fill in the gaps in case of any outages in RTK or CORS communications, has been released in time for the spring planting season and has many around the industry buzzing.

“RTK or other signal outages would normally cause an auto-steering system to disengage until the radio link or cellular modem is able to restore the signal,” says Martinez. “As we all know, any downtime is expensive during planting season or any other season for that matter. With xFill, it steps in and keeps your Trimble autosteering system running with fewer interruptions.”

Additionally, Trimble has released new Autopilot and EZ-Pilot platform kits for over 200 previously unsupported vehicles. According to the company, new vehicles supported include but are not limited to Gleaner combines, Krone Big M & X choppers, MacDon swathers, New Holland sprayers and Kubota GX series tractors.

“This means that growers can now outfit even more of their fleet with Trimble auto-steering solutions,” notes Martinez.

At Topcon Precision Agriculture, a new AGI-4 receiver/steering controller “continues Topcon’s strength in machine control and extends our modular product philosophy to both hardware and software,” says Mike Gomes, director of business development.

“With hardware, you can add higher accuracy inertials, or add RTK as single components, and with software this unit can interface to an existing ISO 11783 Virtual Terminal,” he continues. “Since all Virtual Terminals have some personality traits within the ISO standard that are unique, we are working to test and check inter-operability with a large number of equipment manufacturers. In addition to the AGI-4 hardware, we have added a suite of features that enable Controlled Traffic Farming and make repeatable RTK wayline use and management something that becomes both comfortable for operators and easy for guys in the office.”

Meanwhile, Ag Leader Technologies is excitedly launching a new software update, firmware 4.0, for its GeoSteer system.

“With this update, users can enable and disable coverage mapping based off steering engage status, define tramlines and receive notification when approaching/on tramline, utilize two nudge settings (small and large) with straight AB patterns and select guidance patterns with an intuitive graphic,” says Jenna Royer, marketing communications manager.

TeeJet Technologies has upgraded its Matrix Pro console to Matrix Pro GS for 2013, says Tim Stuenkel, global marketing communications manager.

“Updated features include the support of dry spreader automatic swath control, automatic sprayer section control for staggered spray booms and additional color-scheme options on the touchscreen display,” he explains. “Additionally, Matrix Pro GS can be equipped with Droplet Size Monitoring for real-time display of spray quality characteristics during applications.”

At Deere and Co., the equipment giant is concentrating on upgrades that improve accuracy and repeatability, according to Verbeck.

“John Deere recently announced additional features for the AutoTrac guidance system when using a GreenStar 3 2630 Display,” he says. “The new Swap Track feature provides operators the ability to toggle between up to four guidance lines in the same field, and operators also have the option to change the order of the guidance tracks, similar to a playlist.

“The GreenStar 3 2630 Display also offers operators the ability to set Tramlines when using AB lines, AB curves or Circle Track guidance modes,” Verbeck continues. “Tramline functionality allows operators to easily identify predetermined guidance lines by highlighting them a separate color on the guidance screen. Operators wishing to plant or harvest certain areas of the field without manually counting rows find Tramlines especially useful.”

Raven Industries has announced the release of SmarTrax MD which, according to Tim Heins, product manager, features added torque for faster operating speeds, increased accuracy, reduced noise and the ability to seamlessly transfer the system between multiple tractors including combines, windrowers and more.

Leica Geosystems has launched its mojoXact upgrade option for the company’s mojo3D and mojoMINI displays.

According to the company’s website, the high accuracy upgrade option provides RTK positioning with Leica patented terrain compensation and offers additional steering solutions like SteerDirect CAN, SRK and Hydraulic for further improve accuracy. Flexible mounting options for a variety of equipment, simple plug-and-play installation and remote support via Virtual Wrench are also notable upgrades to mojoXact’s capabilities.

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