Thanks to the new Beidou Navigation Satellite System, Chinese farmers are having an easier time with spring plowing.
In Tawan village in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, a tractor installed with a vegetable transplanter was slowly moving ahead in the field, while several farmers nearby filled the transplanter with seedlings. The tractor's cab was empty, however, and an antenna and receiver sat atop the machine.
"The antenna serves as the eye of this unmanned machine," said Ma Haitao, the original driver of the tractor.
Once a plowing path has been entered, the machine will follow the route precisely, deviating less than three centimeters per kilometer.
The unmanned tractor belongs to Yihe Agricultural Machinery Operation Service Co. Ltd. in Wuzhong city of Ningxia. The company's owner, Tan Zhenlong, purchased seven Beidou Satellite Navigation System sets for its agricultural machinery in two years.
"It costs 200,000 yuan (about 31,683 U.S. dollars) to import a foreign navigation system, but no more than 70,000 yuan for a domestic Beidou navigation system," Tan Zhenlong said. "Four sets of the navigation systems, which were used for planting trees and wheat interplanting last August, worked very well and earned a positive response from the market."
Beidou Satellite Navigation System enables the tractor to plow with great accuracy, preventing mis-seeding and reseeding. It not only cuts farmers' workload by nearly half, but greatly improves land use and production output, according to Tan.
In order to fully apply the navigation system in agriculture, Tan combined an unmanned tractor with a vegetable transplanter.
According to Zhao Jun, an engineer at the local Agricultural Machinery Promotion Center, the combination allows for a 10-percent increase in the seedling survival rate, and the vegetables the farmers eventually harvest will be of the same size and weight, which helps with standardized agriculture production.
Farmer Yan Xue widened his eyes while watching the unmanned tractor. "I've been growing vegetables for years, and I've never thought of witnessing such technology. I'd like to have a try this year," Yan said.
The development of China's modern agriculture is gaining speed thanks to technology like the Beidou Satellite Navigation System.
In the near future, more and more advanced technology, such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicle fertilization, will bring farmers into a new agricultural age, according to Zhao.