Company develops tractor safety radar system
By John O’Connell
A product development firm with locations in Massachusetts, the United Kingdom and Singapore hopes to incorporate its patented short-range, 3D radar technology into tractors to prevent collisions in agricultural fields.
Cambridge Consultants has entered into discussions with major tractor manufacturers and intends to publicly unveil its technology during a demonstration at the Agritechnica International Exhibition from Nov. 12-15 in Hanover, Germany.
The company’s project lead, Gary Kemp, believes statistics from the National Agricultural Tractor Safety Initiative, showing tractor accidents are the leading cause of death and serious injury on U.S. farms, demonstrate the need for new tractor safety innovations. He believes the radar system can prevent accident rates from rising as farm machines become increasingly automated.
“While the farmer in the cab is responsible for making sure the tractor does its job, he’s assisted by lots of technology. He’s also very busy in the cab,” Kemp said. “What we wanted to do is give assistance to make sure while tractors are becoming more automated, they remain safe.”
He knows of no other companies researching radar use for tractor safety. Cambridge Consultants hopes to have the technology in commercial tractors within three years.
“We’re told we’re doing something new,” Kemp said.
Kemp explained conventional radar covers a narrow range, rotating the signal to provide a more complete picture.
“The approach we took is to have a very wide, instantaneous field of view and monitor all of that space all of the time,” Kemp said.
The company first used its radar in the optical health industry to measure thickness in the human eye. The radar was later used by ExxonMobile in oil exploration. Cambridge Consultants has investigated using the system to measure the trajectory of projectiles on firing ranges. The company is also looking to use the radar technology in the automotive industry to avert collisions, and to help air traffic controllers navigate around wind farms, which interfere with conventional signals.
In tractors, the system would have sensors facing forward, toward the rear and on boom arms to monitor turning. The sensors would send warnings of possible collisions to the driver’s display.
“What we think would be really effective that we’re also demonstrating now would be to incorporate a video feed with each of the sensors so the cab display would also show a video image around the sensor giving a warning,” Kemp said.
He said Cambridge Consultants may also talk with tractor manufacturers to determine if there’s interest in using the sensors to trigger a tractor’s breaks. He said the system should be affordable to manufacturer and envisions each sensor could produced at a price comparable to a high-end cellular telephone.