Autonomy on the Dot

Technology - Autonomy on the Dot

Matt Wilde
By  Matthew Wilde , Progressive Farmer Crops Editor
Kyle Mensen, of Raven Autonomy, shows Dick Isaacson how to maneuver Dot with a remote control. (Progressive Farmer image by Matthew Wilde)

In less than 10 minutes, the Dot Power Platform, by Raven Autonomy, can become a sprayer, small grains drill or dry fertilizer applicator. That may sound cool, and it is, but there's more.

Whatever job a farmer chooses Dot to accomplish it can do on its own. As the autonomous power platform works in the field, the owner can perform other tasks.

"We see the farm of the future being both manned and unmanned," says Wade Robey, executive director of Raven Autonomy. "Dot allows (growers) to remove labor from the field ... part of its value proposition. What you will get is a more efficient operation."

Raven showed off Dot, named after the inventor's mother, Dorothy, at a recent farm show in Boone, Iowa. Kyle Mensen, a company test engineer, loaded a mission in Dot's path-planning software to spread granular phosphorus and potassium over part of 400 acres set aside for equipment demonstrations. The world's largest autonomous agricultural robot -- according to the company, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota -- did the rest.

Dot evenly spread the fertilizer, which can be variable-rate applied, without an issue. The GPS-guided machine maneuvered around standing corn and other obstacles, such as a drainage inlet. It has safety equipment to prevent accidents.

"We wanted to show farmers what's coming," Robey adds.


Commercial launch of the fully autonomous, diesel-powered platform and three Dot-ready implements initially geared toward small grain producers is slated for the middle of next year in western Canada. Implements include:

> SeedMaster Ultra DSR 30-foot grain drill with 15-inch row spacings. Tank capacity is 340 bushels of wheat, canola, barley and other seed, along with fertilizer and inoculants. Up to 18 acres per hour can be seeded.

> Pattison Connect PLU S120 high-clearance sprayer. It has a 1,600-gallon tank and 120-foot aluminum booms.

> New Leader NL5000 G5 granular nutrient applicator. Box capacity is 22,000 pounds, and the unit comes with 16-section swath width control, among other features.

Dot boasts a Cummins 4.5 liter, 173-hp turbocharged diesel engine, 85-gallon fuel tank, 4WD and steering. Wheels are hydraulic powered. Dot can be operated autonomously from a tablet or semiautonomously using what resembles a video game controller.

Dot's U-shaped frame allows it to easily load implements on its chassis to become one with the platform. "It can take eight minutes to change an implement, but I don't think it has ever taken me that long," Mensen claims.


Raven officials say farmers who utilize GPS guidance and precision agriculture equipment will be able to quickly learn how to operate Dot autonomously. Robey believes farmers with 2,000 or more acres will be early adopters.

List price for the Dot will be about $275,000, Robey says. Each implement, on average, will cost about $130,000.

"You can get a seeder, spreader and sprayer for under $700,000," he continues, noting one of those conventional implements can cost half that amount. "Plus, autonomy allows you to do those things longer, more accurately and with more consistency."

Raven eventually plans to sell Dot worldwide and add more implements to increase its usefulness.



> Follow Matthew Wilde on Twitter @progressivwilde.


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