|Publication number||USRE41358 E1|
|Application number||US 12/026,797|
|Publication date||May 25, 2010|
|Filing date||Feb 6, 2008|
|Priority date||Mar 20, 2003|
|Also published as||US7142956, US20050288834, WO2006002360A1|
|Publication number||026797, 12026797, US RE41358 E1, US RE41358E1, US-E1-RE41358, USRE41358 E1, USRE41358E1|
|Inventors||Richard W. Heiniger, Kent D. Funk, John A. McClure, Dennis M. Collins, John T. E. Timm|
|Original Assignee||Hemisphere Gps Llc|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (49), Non-Patent Citations (3), Referenced by (15), Classifications (11), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/804,721, filed Mar. 19, 2004, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,437,230 which is incorporated herein by reference claims the benefit of U.S. provisional application No. 60/456,130, filed Mar. 20, 2003.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to automatic steering, and in particular to a system and method for providing GPS-based guidance for an auxiliary steering system, which is installed in parallel with a primary steering system of a vehicle and utilizes a constant factor, such as the vehicle steering rate, in a control system with a feedback loop.
2. Description of the Related Art
In the field of vehicle guidance and navigation, the Global Positioning System (GPS) has enabled a wide range of applications. For example, various GPS receivers are available for aviation, marine and terrestrial vehicles. The GPS information provided by such receivers can be processed and used for navigation. In more sophisticated systems, vehicle guidance can be automatically controlled using such information. For example, a predetermined travel or flight path can be programmed into an on-board computer. The vehicle guidance system can automatically maintain appropriate course parameters, such as course, heading, speed, altitude, etc. Control system, feedback theory and signal filtering techniques can be used to interactively anticipate (with higher order systems) and compensate for course deviations and navigation errors. Such sophisticated autopilot and automatic steering systems tend to involve powerful computers and complex flight and steering controls integrated with manual controls.
Accurate vehicle and equipment guidance is an important objective in agriculture. For example, tilling, planting, spraying, fertilizing, harvesting and other farming operations typically involve specialized equipment and materials, which are operated and applied by making multiple passes over cultivated fields. Ideally, the equipment is guided through accurately-spaced passes or swaths, the spacing of which is determined by the swatch width of the equipment. Gaps and overlaps can occur when operators deviate from the ideal guide paths, resulting in under-coverage and over-coverage respectively. Such gaps and overlaps are detrimental to agricultural operations and can reduce crop yields. For example, gaps in coverage reduce the effective areas of fields being cultivated and treated. Overall crop production may suffer as a result. Overlaps in coverage tend to be inefficient and wasteful of materials, such as fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, seed, etc. Another potential problem with overlapping coverage relates to the potentially crop-damaging effects of double applications of certain agricultural chemicals.
Previous systems for assisting with the guidance of agricultural equipment include foam markers, which deposit foam along the swatch edges. The foam lines produced by foam markers provide operators with visible reference lines on which subsequent passes can be aligned. However, foam marking systems consume foam-making materials and provide only temporary foam marks.
GPS technology advanced the field of agricultural guidance by enabling reliable, accurate systems, which are relatively easy to use. For example, the OUTBACK S™ steering guidance system, which is available from RHS, Inc. of Hiawatha, Kans. and is covered by U.S. Pat. No. 6,539,303 and No. 6,711,501, which are incorporated herein by reference, includes an on-board computer capable of storing various straight-line and curved (“contour”) patterns. An advantage of this system is its ability to retain field-specific cultivating, planting, spraying, fertilizing, harvesting and other patterns in memory. This feature enables operators to accurately retrace such patterns. Another advantage relates to the ability to interrupt operations for subsequent resumption by referring to system-generated logs of previously treated areas.
The OUTBACK S™ GPS guidance system provides the equipment operators with real-time visual indications of heading error with a steering guide display and crosstrack error with a current position display. They respectively provide steering correction information and an indication of the equipment position relative to a predetermined course. Operators can accurately drive patterns in various weather and light conditions, including nighttime, by concentrating primarily on such visual displays. Significant improvements in steering accuracy and complete field coverage are possible with this system. However, it lacks the “hands off” capability and inherent advantages of automatic steering, which are addressed by the present invention.
Heretofore there has not been available an automatic steering system and method with the advantages and features of the present invention. In particular, there has not been available a system adapted for original equipment or retrofit installations in parallel with various vehicle hydrostatic steering configurations, which system provides automatic steering assistance using a constant factor, such as the vehicle steering rate, in a control system with a feedback loop.
In the practice of an aspect of the present invention, an automatic steering system and an automatic steering method are provided for a vehicle. The vehicle can comprise a motive component, such as a tractor, and a working component connected thereto by a hitch. The system includes a GPS receiver connected to a guidance controller, which includes a microprocessor adapted for storing and processing GPS information. An auxiliary steering subsystem is installed in parallel with the vehicle's primary hydrostatic steering system, and includes an hydraulic steering valve control block connected to the guidance controller and receiving steering input signals therefrom. The system utilizes a constant steering factor, such as a constant steering rate, which is implemented with “left”, “right” and “none” steering correction signal inputs from the guidance controller to the steering valve control block. The vehicle's hydraulic steering is thus biased right or left to maintain a predetermined vehicle course. A feedback loop is provided from the vehicle's primary steering system through a gyroscopic yaw rate correction component to the guidance controller for determining the necessary steering corrections as a function of the desired and actual turning rates. The automatic steering system of the present invention can be installed in a wide variety of agricultural vehicles and equipment. For example, tractors and special-purpose, self-propelled agricultural equipment, such as sprayers and combines, can be equipped with the automatic steering system of the present invention in parallel with the primary hydrostatic steering systems commonly used in modern tractors and other farming equipment.
I. Introduction and Environment
As required, detailed embodiments of the present invention are disclosed herein; however, it is to be understood that the disclosed embodiments are merely exemplary of the invention, which may be embodied in various forms. Therefore, specific structural and functional details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but merely as a basis for the claims and as a representative basis for teaching one skilled in the art to variously employ the present invention in virtually any appropriately detailed structure.
Certain terminology will be used in the following description for convenience in reference only and will not be limiting. For example, up, down, front, back, right and left refer to the invention as oriented in the view being referred to. The words “inwardly” and “outwardly” refer to directions toward and away from, respectively, the geometric center of the embodiment being described and designated parts thereof. Said terminology will include the words specifically mentioned, derivatives thereof and words of similar meaning.
Referring to the drawings in more detail, the reference numeral 2 generally designates an automatic steering system according to an aspect of the present invention. Without limitation on the generality of useful applications of the steering system 2, by way of example, it is shown and described installed on an agricultural vehicle 4 comprising a motive component (e.g., a tractor) 6 connected to a working component 8 by an optional, articulated connection 10.
II. Guidance Module 12
The automatic steering system 2 includes a guidance module comprising a guidance controller and path planner 12 and a GPS receiver 14 receiving signals from GPS signal sources 16, such as the GPS satellite constellation or ground-based reference transmitters, through an antenna 18 mounted on the cab roof or some other suitable location. The receiver 14 is connected to a microprocessor 20, which provides a graphic display 22 including a heading indicator 24 and a crosstrack error indicator 26, both of which comprise LED indicator light patterns. The guidance module 12 and its operation are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,539,303 and No. 6,711,501.
An optional hitch module 28 can be provided for controlling an articulated hitch 10, which shifts the working component 8 laterally in order to compensate for course deviations by the motive component 6. Such a hitch is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,631,916, which is incorporated herein by reference, and is available from RHS, Inc. of Hiawatha, Kans. under the trademark OUTBACK HITCH™. Another optional component comprises a mapping module 32, which performs mapping functions and provides a graphic display showing field areas treated, current travel paths and other information. For example, the system 2 can calculate the area of a field using the GPS coordinates of the field perimeter, which information can be processed, stored and displayed with the mapping module 32. A compatible mapping module is available from RHS, Inc. under the trademark OUTBACK 360™.
The working component 8 can optionally be equipped with its own GPS receiver 34 and microprocessor 36, which can be linked to the motive component guidance module 12. The use of two GPS receivers and microprocessors in this configuration can enhance guidance accuracy by compensating for GPS positioning discrepancies between the components 6, 8. Without limitation on the generality of vehicle steering systems that are compatible with the automatic steering system 2 of the present invention, the vehicle 4 includes a hydrostatic steering system 38 with an hydraulic power supply (e.g., an hydraulic tank and pump) 40, which is operated by the steering wheel manual steering control 42.
The automatic steering module 44 is connected to the guidance module 12 and receives GPS-based navigation signals as input therefrom, which are used to generate output to a steering valve control block 46, which in turn provides steering direction hydraulic output to the vehicle hydrostatic steering system corresponding to “right”, “left” and “none” directional changes. The automatic steering system 2 utilizes a constant factor, such as the steering rate, which is adjustable as an input to the steering valve control block 46. As described below, this value normally remains constant after an initial adjustment by the operator to accommodate particular equipment configurations and operating conditions. The vehicle hydrostatic steering system 38 is affected by external disturbances, such as those associated with the operation of the vehicle 4. The automatic steering control logic accommodates and compensates for such external disturbances.
Actual turning rate (typically °/sec.) is a function of the steering command signal, the preset steering speed constant, vehicle speed and external disturbances associated with operation of the vehicle 2. This value is fed back to an inertial based yaw rate gyro 56 and is further filtered by a low pass frequency cutoff noise filter 58 to provide an output corresponding to an observed turning rate for combining with the desired turning rate at the summer 50. The filter 58 has a first-order control variable comprising an adjustable time constant Γ (tau). The inertial based yaw rate gyro 56 also provides input to the yaw rate filter 48 for combining with a differential heading from the GPS receiver 14 to provide a smooth heading input to the guidance controller and path planner 12.
III. Automatic Steering Method
The sensitivity adjustment controls the deadband filter 54. Increasing the deadband width reduces sensitivity and vice versa. Excessive sensitivity tends to result in overreaction by the system 2, whereas insufficient sensitivity can cause excessive steering errors. Upon successfully adjusting the steering and system sensitivity as described above, the system 2 will generally require little, if any, further adjustment unless equipment configurations and operating conditions change. The auto-engage subroutine (
The vehicle's primary steering system 38 is shown in FIG. 10 and includes a primary steering orbital hydraulic valve 88 connected to the steering wheel 90 and to both ends of the piston-and-cylinder steering unit 68 by hydraulic lines 92. The primary hydraulic steering orbital valve 88 is also connected to the control block 46 by the hydraulic lines 82, 84 and 86.
It is to be understood that the invention can be embodied in various forms, and is not to be limited to the examples discussed above. Other components and configurations can be utilized in the practice of the present invention.
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|U.S. Classification||701/23, 318/587, 180/9.1|
|International Classification||G06F19/00, B62D13/00, G01C21/00|
|Cooperative Classification||G05D1/027, G05D1/0278, G05D2201/0201|
|European Classification||G05D1/02E16B, G05D1/02E14B|
|Jun 14, 2010||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|Jun 14, 2010||SULP||Surcharge for late payment|
|Sep 11, 2013||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: AGJUNCTION LLC, KANSAS
Free format text: CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNOR:HEMISPHERE GPS LLC;REEL/FRAME:031205/0105
Effective date: 20130619
|Mar 25, 2014||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8