To create traction for a tractor to pull an implement, the tractor must be very heavy, or add ballast, and this represents a waste of horse power, and inefficient power transfer. A significant amount of energy is being used simply to move the tractor.
That’s the reasoning behind the Dot Power Platform, known as DOT, unveiled last week in Canada.
It’s the latest alternative to the conventional tractor. The Dot Power Platform is a compact unit, which achieves efficient power transfer because the implement weight is integrated with the power unit. Power for the machine comes from a 4.5-litre, turbo charged, 163 horse power Cummins diesel engine. It drives four hydraulically powered independent wheels, which are guided by electronically controlled steering through the field on a predetermined path.
First, the platform moves into position for its four liftpoints to lift an implement directly onto DOT’s U-shaped structure, enabling DOT and the implement to become one unit. This is done without a driver, or it can be remotely controlled. So a tractor cab is not necessary.
DOT is 3.61 metres wide, with a transport length of 5.53m, and stands 3.4m high. It weighs 3,855 kg.
It was on show last week in the Ag in Motion event in Saskatchewan, Canada. The prototype version is already powering a 9m seeder, an 18.29m sprayer with a 3,785 litre tank, a 12.5m land roller, or a 17,620 litre grain cart, on Canadian research farm fields.
DOT can travel at up to 12 miles per hour (19.3 km/ hour). Implements made for the Dot Power Platform will be as much as 20% cheaper because they don’t need axles, hubs, tyres, hitches, or folding mechanisms. The Dot Power Platform itself will be priced about the same as a conventional tractor of similar horsepower.
Its wheels are capable of pivoting, allowing the power platform to move in either a wide field position or narrow transport orientation. DOT is being built by SeedMaster Manufacturing, near Regina, Saskatchewan. Norbert Beaujot is the farmer/engineer/inventor behind this new approach to autonomous power.
He says it takes about 10 seconds for Dot to connect to an implement, and a little more time to hook up the hydraulic and electrical connections. Dot takes the autonomous tractor concept away from the existing idea of a drawbar traction unit (tractor) pulling or pushing implements through a field. Beaujot says it is time to bring autonomy to farm equipment, now that less labour is available for agriculture.
Just as robotic milkers allow the dairy farmer concentrate more on managing the overall operation of the farm, DOT completes tasks autonomously and frees up the farmer.
It comes from Western Canada’s large prairie fields, where autonomy is easier to implement, but Beaujot says it will be scalable up and down for larger and smaller farms, and can also have applications in industries such as construction and mining.
The wheels are built to support up to 18,143 kg of implements.
It can be run in full autonomous mode in fields, guided by positional information from its RTK GPS receiver, or by remote control in yards or equipment sheds (using a tablet computer that communicates through a local area network).
DOT’s multiple object detection sensors ensure safe operation, and if it deviates from its prescribed route, DOT will automatically shut down. DOT will send alerts to the farmer if it is unsure how to proceed.
For manual shutdowns, there are multiple emergency stop buttons on the Platform and on remotes.
In the field, DOT continuously monitors individual wheel slippage to reduce the potential for getting stuck in mud.
DOT also has the usual tractor sensors for engine, hydraulic pressure, etc.
For more information (including videos) on the technology, visit the seedotrun.com website.
The shape of things to come: the Dot Power Platform was on show last week in the Ag in Motion event in Saskatchewan, Canada. Left, carrying a 9m seed drill transport orientation, ready to pivot into the field working position.
Tractor of the future? The autonomous or remote controlled Dot Power Platform, ready to move into position to pick up an implement.