John Deere Observing 10-year Anniversary of R-Gator Autonomous Vehicle
The 'Cyber war hero' was developed in 2004 for the U.S. military to handle a variety of war-zone duties deemed 'dull, dirty or dangerous.'
By Jodie Wehrspann, Farm Industry News - Filed Mar 19, 2014
If you’re a gamer and have ever played popular video games with a war theme such as “Halo” or “America’s Army,” then you’re already partially trained to operate the R-Gator, John Deere’s autonomous utility vehicle used in the U.S. military.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of this cyber war hero, commissioned in 2004 in response to the U.S. military’s call for a robot big enough to carry smaller robots used to disarm roadside bombs. Since then, the robotic Gator’s use has extended to anything the military defines as dull, dirty or dangerous.
“The best way I can put it is, we try not to replace a person with a robot, but to allow the war fighters to do more higher-value tasks and use the R-Gator to do the things like perimeter control or carrying supplies,” says Mark Bodwell, manager of the military utility vehicle business with John Deere.
The R-Gator is not sold on the farm market yet, but many of its components were derived from John Deere’s agriculture and turf division, making the transition to autonomy just a step away in agriculture and other peacetime industries.
For example, John Deere tractors already can turn at the end of rows by themselves and follow a combine with a grain cart. The company experimentally used its robotic greens mower to mow the baseball stadiums of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Durham Bulls. And, in Europe, John Deere sells a robotic mower named Tango.
Market demand will dictate further applications, Bodwell says.
Price also will be a factor. After all, not everyone can afford an $80,000 to $1 million robot (price dependent on the number of sensors).