A ‘unique’ autonomous terrain vehicle designed to carry out forestry work is ready for field testing.

The 10-tonne vehicle has been designed and built at Luleå University of Technology in northern Sweden.

“It is a unique machine – there is no one similar in the world as far as we know,” said Magnus Karlberg, professor of machine design at the university.

“We have replaced everything that humans do with intelligence on the machine; with computers working together and controlling it. We have created conditions for the machine to be better than humans and will now test that.”

Professor Karlberg and his colleagues began sketching the autonomous terrain vehicle in 2014, for use as a research platform. Since then, Karlberg and other researchers and students have worked to make the vehicle as smart and robust as possible.

The 10-tonne machine can be controlled via remote control or it can be programmed to perform work on its own. The machine is currently powered by biodiesel and is built without a cab, but with conventional driveline, crane, pendulum arms and sensors.

Forestry Journal: Professor Magnus Karlberg.Professor Magnus Karlberg.

Professor Karlberg continued: “An autonomous vehicle must be able to perceive its surroundings. We have equipped the machine with sensors so that it can make good decisions and to increase safety. For example, if a person gets too close, the machine should turn itself off.

“The autonomous terrain vehicle opens up for a number of research collaborations with, among others, forestry companies and universities in Sweden and abroad. The researchers are, for example, investigating how soil preparation and transport of biomass can be done in a more sustainable way.

“In the forest, soil damage is a major concern and we want to significantly reduce the proportion of area that is affected. In one of our projects, we are working together with Swedish forest companies to do soil preparation in a completely different way than today.

“We also study productivity. How is it possible to make various operations efficient and cheap, but also environmentally considerate and socially acceptable? We work with research questions to meet these challenges. Due to the machine we can do tests and see that it works in reality and not just in a computer environment.”

Professor Karlberg said that autonomous vehicles will change forestry and agriculture but stressed that it will still be a number of years before this type of vehicle becomes common in the forest.

He added: “Man will be present even when these vehicles go autonomously in the forest but will do other things. Instead of sitting in the cab, you may be some distance away and control several vehicles via remote controls.”

Forestry Journal remains dedicated to bringing you all the latest news and views from across our industry, plus up-to-date information on the impacts of COVID-19.

Please support us by subscribing to our print edition, delivered direct to your door, from as little at £69 for 1 year – or consider a digital subscription from just £1 for 3 months.

To arrange, follow this link: https://www.forestryjournal.co.uk/subscribe/

Thanks – and stay safe.