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GUSS (Global Unmanned Spray System)

The world’s first fully autonomous, driverless orchard sprayer is helping to alleviate labor challenges.
Photo courtesy of gussag.com

Dave Crinklaw and his father Bob started an orchard spraying business in 1982. As their California business grew, so did the challenges of finding labor.  Dave also wanted to increase efficiency, so he developed a driverless orchard sprayer. It’s called the Global Unmanned Spray System, or “GUSS”.

The single biggest challenge in building GUSS was that GPS doesn’t work well under tree canopies. However, other vehicle sensors and software were developed to help guide the machine through the orchard.

Gary Thompson is the company’s marketing director. He says they map the boundaries of the orchard, measure the row distance, look for obstacles, and then create a grid of the area.

"At that point, it’s time to start spraying. What we have is an operator who sits in a control van and he has computer screens in sight, he can monitor all the sprayers," he says. "That person’s going to monitor up to 8-10 of these sprayers at a time. So, that’s one guy watching 8-10 of these things."

Precision across the entire field is maximized by setting exact speeds and application rates into the machine.

"We set precise parameters into the software. Most of the type of spraying that we do, they want it done at a very slow speed to ensure that you get good coverage on the trees. So, typically we’re talking 2 mph, 2.5 mph maybe, maybe 3," says Thompson. "They tell you how many gallons per acre of the material that they want sprayed on the trees, and we just set all of that in our software."

Thompson says they have six orchard vehicles, and are testing a prototype machine for vineyards.

Learn more about the Global Unmanned Spray System

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