The introduction of the Galileo signal into real-time kinematics solutions offers significant advantages and opportunities for autonomous machines in the agricultural environment, improving the accuracy of end solutions and enhancing the overall functionality of assets. The French company Agreenculture has integrated Galileo into its autonomous agricultural robotic solution, in order to improve the calculated trajectories and optimize the resources needed in the agricultural cycle.
When we talk about autonomous driving, we immediately think of self-driving cars and their implications for our daily lives. But in agriculture, automation is already a reality, and the industry is reaping the benefits of autonomous tractors and robots. Automatic driving allows farmers and the tractor driver to focus on other agricultural tasks.
Autonomous tractors equipped with GNSS have become a valuable tool for advanced precision farming applications, helping to reduce costs, increase efficiency and accelerate sustainable food production.
To further improve the performance of its products, the French company Agreenculture has integrated Galileo into its GNSS solution.
Autonomous piloting with their own secure RTK solution
The CEOL autonomous agricultural robot from Agreenculture is equipped with security systems based on their own algorithms, which allow detecting obstacles and fencing safely. Thanks to these functionalities, the farmer can free himself from the cockpit and devote himself to the management of his farm. The robot operates more frequently, plowing the land saving fuel and minimizing ruts, making it possible to operate over shorter time windows and in more difficult ground conditions when weeds are still at an early stage.
Figure 1 CEOL Autonomous Robot
The CEOL autonomous agricultural robot is supported by a special device called ''AGC Box''. This device merges different technologies making possible the robotization of machines. It supervises and secures the execution of work and transforms machines dependent on humans into autonomous, communicating robots. The AGC Box makes it possible to visualize the field and the layout, to calculate the best paths, to avoid obstacles and to draw maps which are then used by CEOL to optimize its trajectory. In addition, this autonomous robot supervises and secures the execution of the work, thus ensuring the integrity and safety of the work.
Figure 2 AGC Box
Improved features when introducing Galileo
The trajectories calculated by the AGC Box are based on a secure GNSS RTK positioning algorithm, developed by Agreenculture, which allows centimeter precision on autopilot.
As Christophe Aubé, President of Agreenculture explains, "the introduction of the Galileo constellation has improved the accuracy of their positioning solution mainly in environments refractory to GNSS such as dense forests or under trees with thick foliage". Since being declared operational in 2016, the Galileo constellation has gone from strength to strength, steadily increasing the number of satellites available in space, which now stands at 26. The more satellites, the more robust the service delivery. In addition, the multi-constellation scenario allows for faster cold start, achieving accurate positioning just minutes after the device starts.
Figure 3 The farmer can monitor the trajectory of the CEOL from his mobile phone.
Agreenculture's use case highlights that GNSS technology, and in particular that of Galileo, is one of the main drivers of the fifth revolution in agriculture, saving fuel, seeds and pesticides.
Improved mapped trajectories equate to optimized and more accurate routes for autonomous machines. This results in reductions in fuel, water, pesticides and emissions, helping EU farmers go green and supporting the implementation of the EU Green Deal.
Thanks to the high level of availability offered by the Galileo satellites, the security management algorithms and the AGC Box, Agreenculture is now able to offer robotic solutions for safe positioning and geocoding! The AGC Box can be installed on other tractors. It allows farmers to let robots work alone.
Figure 4 Secure geofencing only requires secure virtual fences with an AGC box.
This secure geocoding enables many other new features that are still under development, such as remote control of robots when exposed to unexpected or dangerous situations.
In the future, Agreenculture will provide remediation services for autonomous solutions like agricultural robots or safe autonomous tractors through the Virtual Reference Station (SRV). In such a scenario, the user will receive corrections from an imaginary, unoccupied virtual reference station, located a few meters away from him.
For this position, observations are created from data surrounding the reference stations as if they had been observed at this position by a GNSS receiver.
Figure 5 VRS Applications by Agreenculture
Agreenculture's testimonial on the benefits of Galileo in guidance solutions for autonomous machinery is a good indicator of how agriculture is rapidly adopting the European Global Navigation Satellite System. To learn more about Galileo, its services and differentiators, users are encouraged to register with the European GNSS Service Center (GSC) or contact the GSC Helpdesk at: www.gsc-europa.eu/helpdesk.
We would like to thank the Agreenculture team for their help in preparing this article.