GNSS receivers move from precision agriculture to the backyard
One of the most economically successful applications of GNSS has been in precision agriculture: a concept that was developed in the USA during the 1980s. Since that time techniques have improved and have seen more widespread adoption, improving both yields and productivity.
Although GNSS receivers are not the only technology involved, they do play a key role providing positional feedback to enable agricultural machinery to operate in exactly the right spot and to cover large areas with the greatest efficiency. Particular advances have been made with variable-rate agricultural equipment such as crop sprayers and seeders. In such cases, knowledge of the exact position of the equipment allows exactly the right concentration of seeds, pesticide or fertiliser to be applied, potentially saving millions in waste.
Now, however, the world of precision agriculture has moved into the domestic backyard (or garden), with the development of the GNSS-guided robotic lawnmower. And whereas early attempts at robotic mowing relied on the use of a guide wire or similar contraption, the latest versions use GNSS receivers to determine their exact position.
Last year saw the ninth Annual ION Robotic Lawn Mower Competition (organised by the US Institute of Navigation), pitting university teams from around the USA in a series of challenges. And now the technology has moved into the mainstream, with a number of commercial lawn mower manufacturers (the latest being Husqvarna) offering GPS tracking as an option on its existing range of robotic mowers.
Needless to say, garden equipment manufacturers considering entering the robotic mowing market would be well advised to ensure that the GNSS receiver they use has been rigorously tested for accuracy and reliability. No gardener would appreciate having his or her prize chrysanthemums chewed to a mulch by an errant mower!
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