Autonomous Orchard Sprayer – World’s First and Only

Picture of Autonomous Orchard Sprayer Giuded by Velodyne Lidar
Autonomous Orchard Sprayer Guided by Velodyne Lidar

This is the history of the vision behind the world’s first and only autonomous orchard sprayer.

The heritage of GUSS, which stands for Global Unmanned Spray System, goes back to 1982 when its inventor Dave Crinklaw and his father Bob started an agriculture spray business in the Central Valley of California. Under Dave’s leadership, his company, called CFS LP, has grown from two tractors servicing about 40 acres a day to a fleet that now sprays up to 5,000 acres a day during peak season.

Around 2007, Dave had the vision to build a driverless sprayer but back then the technology was not ready to support an autonomous vehicle. As the vehicle navigation technology improved, Dave began development of a prototype driverless orchard sprayer in 2015. Today, that vehicle, called GUSS, is ready to spray field after field in the safe, precise and efficient way Dave first envisioned.

To learn more about GUSS Automation and how they are delivering on their vision for driverless sprayers, we asked Gary Thompson to discuss the company’s innovative autonomous orchard sprayers and how Velodyne technology helps them address the needs of growers.

VL: What challenges do growers face that led GUSS Automation to develop a driverless sprayer?

Gary Thompson: As a matter of fact, GUSS was originally developed to deal with our own company’s challenges. Our commercial spray business is the largest in the state and for the past 15 years we’ve had a very difficult time finding enough employees to drive our tractors. Upon debuting GUSS to the world, we received a multitude of inquiries from growers wanting to purchase our sprayers because they were facing the same problems we were. The labor shortage that farmers face directly affects their ability to grow crops and bring them to market profitably. Additionally, an increase in regulations and labor costs have further added to the problem.

VL: How can a driverless sprayer help growers achieve a higher level of efficiency and precision?

Thompson: Spraying orchards with GUSS is by far the most efficient method of spraying. The obvious efficiency advantage comes in labor. A single operator can monitor up to 10 GUSS sprayers at a time. GUSS is also more efficient in that it experiences less stopped and down time than traditional equipment. Precision is also maximized with GUSS because it is computer controlled. Exact parameters are set into GUSS’s software that control vehicle speed, fan speed, spray pump pressure, and material flow rate. Furthermore, GUSS automatically turns its spray on and off during turns at the exact right times.

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