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Toward Autonomous Farming

By Ann Steffora-Mutschler, Semiconductor Engineering

From harvesting robots to tractors without cabs, autonomy has already reached the agricultural industry.


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While the self-driving car has become the poster child for leading-edge technology, advanced automation efforts are underway in more prosaic working vehicles, as well. “Autonomous agriculture using ground-based vehicles looks rather like a combination of self-driving cars and industrial robots,” said Tom Anderson, technical marketing consultant at OneSpin Solutions. “The ability of harvesters and other large agricultural equipment to navigate safely will doubtless leverage experience with autonomous passenger vehicles. Yet their sheer size and potential for damage to humans may demand safety zones and operational guidelines closer to industrial automation,”

For semiconductors in this space, safety requirements will get even more complex, Anderson said. “For example, the well-known ISO 26262 standard for automobile electronics is being extended to include larger vehicles. Further, autonomous agriculture includes drones and larger aircraft performing seeding and crop-dusting operations. This adds airborne electronics standards such as DO-254 and DO-178C into the mix. The navigational demands for autonomous agricultural vehicles may be less than those of a self-driving car in heavy traffic, but other forms of complexity must be factored in and verified using certified formal techniques.”


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