Thursday, May 17, 2012

Remote Control Tractor

Farming has made many, many advances in the last 100 years.  One example would be the tractor.  The fact that we can now use large machinery with 300+ horse power to plow through fields rather than using an actual horse is amazing.  Even more amazing is that now you don’t even need to drive the tractor – it can drive itself.

The technology for GPS-based precision automated steering systems has been around for sometime.  There are many advantages, the main one being it eliminates the need to steer when the tractor is being operated in straight lines in open fields and therefore reduces human error (the operator still has to turn the tractor around at the end of the row).  The system knows where you have been so you are more accurate in your driving and you don’t overlap or completely skip rows when planting, spraying, etc.  It also allows you to focus more on the other equipment that you are pulling behind the tractor rather than having to actually keep your eyes on the field in front of you.*

Travis and his dad have been living in the past up until this spring when Travis purchased three kits to convert a few of our existing tractors to auto steering himself.  You would have thought that it was Christmas morning when the packages arrived.  He had to break open the boxes and get to work on them right away.  I didn’t see him for days.  Just kidding…I think.

Now that the kits are installed all I hear about are how great it is to have them – so great at even I could drive them.  Ha!

Last week the boys and I made a visit to Travis out in the field to see what all of the fuss was about.  But first we had to take care of some business.

Here is a tour inside the cab of our “big red tractor,” also known as a Case IH 9270.  This monitor is on the dash in front of the wheel for the auto steering.

This is the computer box next to the seat of the tractor that is the brains of the operation and controls the steering.  It is an older model than the fancy schmancy versions that are new on the market today.

These are the monitors for the no-till drill that Travis was using to plant that day.  They have nothing to do with the auto steering, but were a new addition to the tractor since the drill was just purchased last year.

These are the hoses that control the auto steering.

It must have been quite the project.  He installed this system on not one, but three of our tractors.

I took video of the auto steering in action, but it is not that exciting.  Just imagine Travis saying, “NO HANDS!  NO HANDS!” like a kid who just learned to ride his bike without holding on to the handle bars would say.

Levi is wondering when he will get to go on a tractor ride and Charlie will have to stay with me  since there is only one “buddy” seat.  I told him that will happen the day that I start to drive tractor or Charlie starts school.  I’m not sure which will come first.


*Warning: You must stay awake while driving a auto steering assist tractor as a farmer or two have been known to fall asleep at the wheel and drive into trees (aka shelter belts) or water.

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