Germany: Fendt, a tractor manufacturer, developed GuideConnect system which allows two tractors, connected by satellite navigation and radio communication, to operate as one unit. The system enables two unmanned vehicles to perform the same working procedure as the manned vehicle. It will be introduced during Agritechnia 2011 in Hanover, Germany, during November 15-19, 2011. Impressed with the system, the German Agricultural Society (DLG) already announced that Fendt will be awarded one Gold Medal during Agritechnia 2011. In addition, the intelligent front loader, the Fendt Cargo Profi and the load relief control for the front linkage will each be awarded a Silver Medal.
According to the company’s press statement, RTK-GPS satellite positioning and communication between the vehicles via an encoded wireless connection provide accurate positioning. When arriving at the headland, the guided tractor remains stationary and waits until the guiding tractor has completed the turn and then follows its path accordingly. Implements are automatically raised at the right position and then lowered into operating position after the turning manoeuvre is completed. When the manned tractor drives around an obstacle, the connected tractor duo reduces its speed and then continues along the preset path when finished. To drive around obstacles in the path of the guided vehicle, the operator can temporarily route the guided vehicle along his own path.
Safety plays a decisive role for Fendt GuideConnect. In general, the operator of the guiding vehicle carries the responsibility for both vehicles. However, the system has also been equipped with a multi-level safety concept. The encoded wireless connection ensures that only the two defined tractors can communicate with each other. If another Fendt GuideConnect set-up is nearby, there is no danger that the guided vehicle will accidentally follow the other guiding vehicle. The guided vehicle itself becomes active in conditions that are critical for safety. For example, an emergency stop feature is immediately activated when satellite positioning is no longer possible or the wireless connection is interrupted or the distance between the tractors is too large or small. Then the guided tractor is immediately brought into a safe state and the engine is switched off. The guided vehicle not only accepts commands, but also reports to the guiding vehicle about error states, such as a low fuel level, or other important information, such as engine or ground speed. In a later stage, the guided tractor will receive more capabilities and, for example, will be equipped with an environment sensor system.