Earlier this year, Valtra and Elisa, a Finnish telecommunications company, unveiled a remote-controlled tractor that utilises new-generation 5G network technology. According to
the companies, the prototype solution enables the safe, real-time control and operation of a tractor from hundreds of kilometres away.
“Radio-controlled tractors have been in use for years, but it’s always meant staying within sight of the machine. 5G revolutionises this, as a tractor can now be driven remotely from anywhere,” said Mikko Lehikoinen, Valtra’s vice-president of sales and marketing.
The companies said that 5G services and solutions would bring efficiency and innovative ways of operating for businesses and people.
“The remote-controlled tractor is a very real example of this, as the driver no longer needs to physically sit in the cab,” said Kimmo Pentikäinen, vice-president of business development at Elisa.
Pentikäinen explained that when steering a tractor remotely, an operator relied on immediate feedback to give the feeling of driving.
The remote-control system developed by Elisa and Valtra uses an integrated 5G connection and a roof-mounted 360° camera. The 5G network enables the remote driver’s virtual reality glasses to receive a real-time, 4K-resolution view of the environment in which the tractor is operating.
The operator can examine the tractor’s surroundings simply by turning his or her head. The remote-control system transmits signals through Elisa’s high-security, commercial 5G network.
Safer and easier
According to Valtra, remote control is a key step towards fully autonomous driving, which could become a reality for many end users within the next decade. Remote control can be utilised, for example, to operate driverless tractors in challenging sites or tasks that would be dangerous in manned operations.
“We’ll continue our work in researching and developing remote control solutions. Next, we plan to figure out how to adjust picture quality according to each task, and how remote operation could be further enhanced with sensor data useful to the operator,” said Lehikoinen.
Valtra tractor technologies working in the field currently already support remote control, which will facilitate the implementation of remote-control features. For example, the Valtra Connect telemetry solution, which uses the 3G signal, is in use in over 3 000 Valtra tractors across the world.