Active Fill Control
Active Fill Control is an automation product simplifying the unloading process in John Deere’s Self Propelled Forage Harvesters (SPFH) for 8000 Series model year 2016 or later. The system achieves an even fill of the container while minimizing spillage, all of this without requiring the operator’s intervention. It reduces operator stress and fatigue, improves harvest efficiency and operates day and night. This product was awarded an innovation “Silver Medal” at AGRITECHNICA 2015.
Operators of forage harvesters need to keep constant control of the machine’s speed and direction to ensure proper alignment with the crop row and the truck next to it where the forage is sent. Additionally, operators also need to control the boom that directs the forage to the truck and achieve a uniform fill. This multi-tasking is very demanding and leads to inefficiencies and accidental spillage. Every second of spillage wastes a few hundred kilograms of forage.
To solve this problem, the team developed an automated system for trailer and truck filling.
Stereo Based Perception
Active Fill Control uses a remote sensing system developed at NREC to track the position of the transport vehicle and to determine the optimal location where to deposit the crop:
- A stereo camera on the harvester’s spout captures an image of the surroundings, producing a 3D representation of the scene.
- Our image processing algorithms determine the extent of the receiving trailer and the distribution of the crop deposited inside it.
- The harvester uses the crop height information from the sensing system to automatically aim the spout towards open empty spots.
- The system achieves an even fill while minimizing spillage, all of this without requiring the operator’s intervention.
Following NREC’s tradition of solid engineering, Active Fill Control is based on a reliable hardware platform resulting from a joint design with John Deere. The Image Processing Module provides the embedded computational resources required to run the application, with a ruggedized design ensuring continuous operation in challenging agricultural environments.
Active Fill Control is an example of how NREC’s dedication to applied robotics and close work with our clients has the potential to bring solutions to real world problems. Quality products and short time to market are essential parts of our mission.