One big question that begs to be answered is: how will the human race maintain a sustainable production of food as the population increases? This question is answered in many different ways, however one solution is to improve the current methods of farming that are used, at least in the United States. Currently, large tractors are used to plant and cultivate fields in an organized method. These tractors, typically human operated, require significant amounts of time and labor to complete tasks. Navigating tractors as driverless vehicles is a relatively new concept, although the technology to do this has been around for some time now. While driverless cars are quickly becoming more accepted, driverless tractors have more difficulty in navigating, since they do not have physical landmarks such as lane lines, roadway edges, and physical objects to reference while navigating. Instead, a tractor’s position must be held constant through global positioning, onboard sensors, and real-time kinematic sensors. While GPS and RTK systems have been used for many years, the sensitivity of onboard sensors has recently improved significantly. GPS has the ability to position to roughly 3 meters in any direction, which is not sufficient for proper crop cultivation. The goal, centimeter level accuracy, can be accomplished using new sensors inertial measurements. An IMU, or inertial measurement unit, measures accelerations in any direction, as well as rotation changes in any direction. New advances in technology allow these IMU sensors to provide positioning accuracy on the level of centimeters, allowing farming tractors to navigate fields with amazing accuracy, therefore reducing seed and crop waste, and improving operating efficiencies overall. Micro-electronic mechanical systems, or MEMS, are being utilized in IMU sensors to increase accuracy and reduce sensor drift. These are significant steps in the right direction to provide cost effective food populations into the near future.
-article taken from www.sae.org