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Path tracking in forest terrain by an autonomous forwarder

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Autonomous navigation in forest terrain, where operation paths are rarely straight or flat and obstacles are common, is challenging. This paper evaluates a system designed to autonomously follow previously demonstrated paths in a forest environment without loading/unloading timber, a pre-step in the development of fully autonomous forwarders. The system consisted of a forwarder equipped with a high-precision global positioning system to measure the vehicle's heading and position. A gyro was used to compensate for the influence of the vehicle's roll and pitch. On an ordinary clear-cut forest area with numerous stumps, the vehicle was able to follow two different tracks, three times each at a speed of 1 m s−1, with a mean path tracking error of 6 and 7 cm, respectively. The error never exceeded 35 cm, and in 90% of the observations it was less than 14 and 15 cm, respectively. This accuracy is well within the necessary tolerance for forestry operations. In fact, a human operator would probably have a hard time following the track more accurately. Hence, the developed systems function satisfactorily when using previously demonstrated paths. However, further research on planning new paths in unknown unstructured terrain and on loading/unloading is required before timber transports can be fully automated.

Keywords: Robotics; automation; autonomous vehicles

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Forest Resource Management,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, Sweden 2: Department of Computing Science,Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

Publication date: 2011-08-01

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