If you’re anything like me, you probably like to imagine farmers working their fields with a good ol’ horse-drawn plow. That is, of course, horribly outdated, and virtually all farming has been done with tractors for roughly a century now. But, if you’re still driving those tractors manually, you’re living in the past too. Farming with autonomous tractors is commonplace now, and AGOpen is an open source, DIY upgrade to do that with a conventional tractor.
While self-driving cars are still in their infancy and safety concerns abound, autonomous farming is becoming ubiquitous. It’s a lot easier to let a tractor drive itself because the area is known and fairly static, and you don’t have to worry about other drivers or pedestrians. This ESP32 NodeMCU-based AGOpen GPS autosteering system can be used to convert any regular tractor into an autonomous farming tractor.
Users start by installing the AGOpen software on a Windows computer or tablet, and the code on an ESP32 MCU. In the software, they map out the area to be covered by the tractor. That generates the equivalent of toolpaths that the tractor should follow. The ESP32 then uses data from a GPS module to navigate that path, with additional sensors to make sure the tractor isn’t tilting too far. Sensors on the wheels determine how much the tractor is turning, and a motor on the steering column actually steers it. With this setup, the tractor can drive itself around a field — though it looks like they’re expecting someone to be in the driver’s seat just in case.