The digitisation of agriculture involves providing visual perception solutions for mobile agricultural machines and harvesting robots. The Visionary snapshot cameras from SICK for 3D environment monitoring allow equipment such as combine harvesters to navigate as sensory organs along edging, enable robots to pick only ripe fruit or to precisely determine the harvest volume in transfer vehicles, rental, storage and silo facilities. These are not only ‘visionary’, but available.
On one hand, the driving force behind using technology for environment monitoring in mobile agricultural machines is the desire to enable active driver assistance with the aim of avoiding collisions and property damage. On the other hand, these types of sensors also provide valuable data for fully autonomous work processes, which are increasingly being implemented in IoT precision farming application scenarios. After all, sensors in agricultural machines are no longer anything out of the ordinary. Equipped with approximately 90 sensors, combine harvesters and other large agricultural machines often have more electronic encoders on board than cars do.
For users and OEMs: technology neutral product selection for optimum application solutions
Collision avoidance while turning, maneuvering and reversing, navigation of autonomous agricultural machines during field work and harvesting, ripeness detection and gripping reliability for harvesting robots, targeted pesticide applications able to visually differentiate between crops and weeds, level monitoring on transfer vehicles or determining harvest volume in rental, storage and silo facilities are all common but diverse applications. These characteristics, however, place special requirements on sensors for 3D environment monitoring.
The portfolio of 3D snapshot cameras from SICK including the extremely rugged Visionary-B, the close range, high-precision Visionary-S, and the Visionary-T for accurate data even at long distances, boasts the special advantage being able solve all currently known detection and measurement applications with mobile agricultural machines and harvesting robots from one single portfolio. Consulting that is technology-neutral and focused on the technical and economic optimisation of applications uses a direct comparison of these three different 3D snapshot technologies, ensuring that the most suitable Visionary product is always used for each customer application. Plug and play solutions for original equipment or for retrofitted mobile machines are available as well as variants for integrators and software specialists looking to integrate the raw data from the Visionary products into their own software solutions.
Visionary-B: rugged solution with a wide field of vision
The 3D Visionary-B driver assistance system is specially designed for use in extremely harsh outdoor conditions. Depending on the product variant, the kit consists of at least a stereo sensor head with degree of protection IP69k, an evaluation unit and a monitor to be mounted in the driver’s cab. Using stereo-vision, two synchronised cameras at the detection angle 125° x 75° take pictures from slightly different perspectives and use triangulation to create a 3D image of the environment. The working distance is up to seven meters for applications focused solely on detection and up to 15 meters for measuring applications with 3D raw data output. Visionary-B displays detected objects on the monitor in the driver’s cab and sounds an alarm signal according the degree of relevance for collisions in the specific work environment. If Visionary-B is integrated directly into a complex sensor and visualisation system on a vehicle, or if reliable raw data is required, obstacles and warnings can also be processed and displayed on a central vehicle terminal.
Visionary-S: high precision at close range with simultaneous colour detection in any light situation
The Visionary-S 3D environmental monitoring sensor also uses stereo vision, but is also supported by active, structured illumination. The camera combines high precision with exceptional performance. With its sub-millimeter resolution, it delivers up to 30 images per second – and in color as well. In addition, thanks to the integrated light source, the Visionary-S can output distance information as depth values of up to 40 klx as well as capture them in complete darkness as reliably as it can in brightly lit environments. The 3D camera’s high recording speed guarantees high efficiency even with time-critical applications. Applications such those with harvesting robots, orchard and vineyard tractors, plant sprays or mobile sorting systems can be programmed in the device and executed independently of the vehicle control system.
Visionary-T: Time-of-flight measurement provides high-precision distance and size information for long-range applications
For distances of up to 60 meters, the 3D Visionary-T environment sensor does not use optical triangulation to generate its 3D data but instead uses 3D time-of-flight (3DToF). The integrated active lighting system that illuminates the surroundings enables the camera – as well as the Visionary-S – to be used in dark environments. Due to its versatility, the Visionary-T is suitable as a data supplier for navigation applications in autonomous agricultural and harvesting machines as well as in robot-assisted processing and storage of agricultural products, depending on the requirements. As a solution platform for edge computing in Farming 4.0 applications, the configurable versions of Visionary-T DT or Visionary-T AP for example, also offer the option of evaluating the measured depth information in the camera and issuing the detected results directly as digital switching signals, such as to a vehicle control system.