Tuesday, September 6, 2011

No. 304: An unmanned tractor capable of traveling the furrow very precisely (September 7, 2010)

An unmanned tractor loaded with a system developed by a team made up of Hitachi Zosen and Hokkaido University traveled the furrow with a marginal error of a few centimeters with the help of Japan’s first, and currently the only, quasi-zenith satellite “Michibiki (Guidance)” in Tokyo for demonstration. The traveling route was put in the program in advance, and the tractor traveled the furrow while compensating the position using the signals it received from the “Michibiki” through the antenna on its top. The existing GPS system alone creates a marginal error of 1-10 meters, but the combined use of the Michibiki and the existing GPS successfully reduce it to a few centimeters. This precision allows for efficient pesticide application targeting a specific crop and automatic harvesting besides improving the labor efficiency in farm operation. The research team also considers the application for monitoring children and as a tool to guide sightseers. Launched last September, the “Michibiki” is making rounds in the sky over Australia and Japan describing a figure of eight. Because it can cover the sky over Japan only for eight hours a day, the Japanese government plans to launch the second and third “Michibiki” in the future.      

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