Thai engineer develops unmanned sugarcane harvester
FOLLOWING his success in developing a prototype of a sugarcane harvester that costs less than half the price of an imported one, retired engineer Boonyarit Suwannasarn is now working on an unmanned version.
The prototype of the second model of his harvester is about 90 percent complete and a team of 10 local mechanics are putting the finishing touches on it.
Mr Boonyarit, 59, previously worked on an offshore oil platform. He now lives in Sawankhalok district of Sukhothai province in central Thailand, around 400 km north of Bangkok, and has turned his home into a workshop for designing and developing cane harvesters. His team spent about six months building the prototype.
When completed, the new model harvester will not need a driver as the engine control unit is from a drone and is equipped with a global positioning system, Mr Boonyarit said.
The harvester will work on its own, with only a single worker to monitor it from afar, simply to ensure that it does not tumble over if it hits a large hole and that the harvested cane does not fall off as it is loaded onto a truck by the conveyor belt, he said.
The engine control unit in the second generation harvester cost only 5000 baht (K211,500), compared to 200,000 baht to 300,000 baht for the one used in an imported harvester, he said.
“An imported cane harvester usually costs 13 million baht while this one will cost only about 6 million baht,” he said. “Imported harvesters are full of sets of wires that cost 30,000 baht to 40,000 baht each. Our version is more or less wireless.”
Mr Boonyarit said being locally made meant it was also more convenient and more economic for the owner to maintain and repair because parts could be purchased locally. The mechanical and electrical systems are also far simpler, he said.
It is a combination of outstanding features adopted from both American and Australian-made cane harvester technology, he said.
The prototype has already been used to cut more than 11,000 tonnes of cane. It operated day and night and worked well, he said.
Mr Boonyarit said his harvester uses 200 litres of fuel less per day than an imported harvester of the same class. It also captures the juice from the cane during harvesting more efficiently, he said.
Boonyarit Suwannasarn shows his unmanned sugarcane harvester and its wireless control system in Sukhothai province.