Farming made easy: KITS Warangal develops interface for driverless tractor

Farmers can use the remote-controlled tractor to plough small fields


HYDERABAD: A team of researchers and students from Telangana's Kakatiya Institute of Technology and Science (KITS), Warangal, came up with an interface in the form of an Android app to operate a tractor with a remote control and without any human involvement. The interface will cost just Rs 25,000 per tractor and comes as part of an effort to assist farmers by reducing manpower and labour costs.

The team, led by Professor Dr Niranjan Reddy and comprising Assistant Professor Mohammad Sharfuddin Waseem and two B.Tech students, Tharun and Saketh, worked together since 2019 to create this remote-controlled interface to operate a tractor without any human interference.

“This innovative equipment is the result of encouragement from the chairman Captain V Lakshmikantha Rao and KITS principal Dr K Ashoka Reddy, who have always pushed and motivated the students and the faculty to develop something unique and beneficial for society,” said Dr Niranjan Reddy, Head of Department of Computer Science Engineering (CSE), KITS Warangal.

Aided by the interface, the driverless automated farmer-friendly tractor will assist farmers in cultivating their land, which will turn out to be economical and increase their revenue. Farmers can use the remote-controlled tractor to plough small fields. The primary goal of the initiative was to reduce human labour and labour costs in farming.

After recognising the challenges in operating a tractor with high labour costs and the risk of driving the vehicle in extreme weather conditions, Dr Niranjan Reddy decided to develop this farmer-friendly equipment that can be operated without a driver.

"After a thorough review of our project, 'Automation of Farming Tools,' the Department of Science and Technology (DST) called us in January 2020 for presenting our proposal to the DST office, after which they accepted and sanctioned us Rs 41 lakh for our project." We received funds by February 2020 and worked on our proposal," Dr Niranjan Reddy said.

"We developed this user-friendly Android app to operate a driverless tractor. With the help of this Internet of Things (IoT) kit we developed, even an uneducated farmer sitting under a tree can easily operate and move the steering, clutch and brakes and cultivate his field," Dr Reddy added.

He further explained, "The ploughing machine can be controlled by an Android application similar to a computer game. We installed various types of sensors to detect proximity, temperature and soil moisture in order to collect data from the live field and act appropriately. The gadget identifies obstacles with its proximity sensor."

When asked if this remote-controlled equipment could cause tractor drivers to lose their employment, Dr Niranjan Reddy said, "Whenever technology takes over, it's very common that human interference decreases. If a farmer wants to cultivate, he must arrange a driver, for which he must invest Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 each time. However, our equipment is a one-time investment for farmers that can be very valuable for them because they utilise it without the assistance of a driver. Even if a driver cultivates, there are several risks involved, including the possibility of an accident, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a tractor driver these days."

Dr Reddy said, "We have successfully tested the equipment on our campus and we are able to drive the tractor without any difficulty. We'll be testing the kit in a farmer's field soon, in their presence."

He further said: "We are also planning to upgrade the app with other features like object detection and geo-fencing, within the next three to four months. We will then file for a patent and release it to the public," added Dr Reddy, who is hoping to add more features to the kit.

Dr Niranjan Reddy and his team intends to expand on this research in their next module, which will also include seed planting, pesticide organisation, planting and soil humidity monitoring by driverless tractor.

KTR lauds invention for driverless tractor, calls it a game-changer for farming

Telangana IT Minister K T Rama Rao, who never shies away from showering praises on young talent and give them due credit for their achievements, was quick to respond to the invention of the Kakatiya Institute of Technology and Science (KITS).

The minister took to Twitter and said the driverless, autonomous tractor can change the future of farming. He tweeted, "I was impressed with the driverless autonomous tractor developed by the team at Kakatiya Institute of Technological Sciences (KITS), Warangal. This is the future of farming, and I urge young innovators who would want to make a social impact to come out with more such ideas and products."

"KTR also came by a few days ago and was amazed by our project," said Dr Niranjan Reddy. “He assured us that the state government would help us in any way possible. He (KTR) encouraged us to come up with many more fresh ideas,” Dr Reddy added.

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