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No Picture Available Tim Wilcox
Graduate Assistant
Department of Agricultural
and Biological Engineering
tawilcox@illinois.edu
No Picture Available Alan C. Hansen
Associate Professor
Department of Agricultural
and Biological Engineering
(217) 244-6882
hugie@illinois.edu

Harvesting Grain More Effectively With Wireless Data Communication

The increasing capacity and work rate of combine harvesters has placed matching demands on the performance of systems used for the off-loading and delivery of grain. Today's high performance combines working in corn are able to fill their grain tanks in less than 6 minutes and can off-load to a grain cart in as little as 2 ½ minutes. If more than one combine is working in the field, the performance of the grain cart(s) becomes critical in preventing the combines from having to stop and wait to be offloaded.

Analysis of in-field grain handling systems shows that there is considerable scope to improve harvesting efficiency and the deployment of both machines and operators. In addition, the field to farmstead/elevator transport of grain needs to be addressed. The provision of real-time in-cab information concerning vehicle positions, grain bin fill status and related parameters will assist the operators of the respective vehicles to make decisions that will improve the transfer rate of grain from combine to elevator.

figure 1

The objective of this research is to develop and implement a real-time wireless data communication system for more effective grain handling by combines and grain wagons. To develop such a system, work was divided up into two general areas: building the real-time network to function as the backbone of the system and then adapt that application to a function on typical equipment used in a Midwestern grain harvesting application.

The components needed on each vehicle to create this in-field network are

  • John Deere Greenstar system (with Starfire GPS receiver, Mobile processor and Display)
  • Tablet PC, which serves as the interface to the machine, display, and radios
  • NavCom Safari 7100 radio

The system works by taking in data for each particular machine to which it is fitted (such as grain yield, moisture, ground speed, GPS position, grain cart weight, etc.) and makes observations and predictions about the system of vehicles running in the field from this data.

Testing was conducted on this system in March 2005 in Australia. The following capabilities were demonstrated during this testing:
  • Displaying the current ground speed of the combine in the grain cart tractor to aid the unload on-the-go process
  • Displaying how full the combine's grain bin is for the operator in the grain cart tractor
  • Displaying a real time in-field map for all the equipment in the field
  • Predicting the location in the field where the combine will be full

Testing on a Midwestern harvesting operation is being planned for this fall with more features being developed and refined for testing.

figure 2
 
Department of Crop Sciences
College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois Extension
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