Elisa teams up with Valtra on remote 5G controlled tractors
Finnish telco Elisa has turned a mass-produced tractor into a “5G remote-controlled work machine” that can carry out tasks that would otherwise put human lives at risk. The work follows a deal with tractor maker Valtra, signed earlier this year, to develop 5G-controlled tractors.
Elisa said mass produced tractors, without any integrated technology, can now be customised to operate on 5G without a driver sitting in the cab. Elisa has produced a 5G unit that can be fixed to a tractor to enable remote control from hundreds of kilometres away.
Radio-controlled tractors have been around for years, but have required operators to stay within sight of the vehicle. The new 5G setup provides the remote operator with a 360-degree view of the tractor’s surroundings, via a roof mounted camera. The operator receives a 4K view of the environment in real time in virtual reality glasses, and can examine the surroundings by turning their head.
The remote control sends its control signal through Elisa’s commercial 5G network. Valtra tractors already offer remote control on 3G in over 3,000 tractors, globally; these require operation at closer range. It Valtra has previously piloted remote-controlled tractors with airport operator Finavia.
Remote control is considered a key step towards fully autonomous driving in the next decade. Remote control can be utilised to operate driverless tractors in challenging sites or tasks that would be dangerous in manned operations. The solution requires close cooperation with legislators for commercial deployment.
“Technical details also need to be honed to perfection in all areas of the solution – in Finland, this is made easier by our excellent collaboration network,” said Tommi Malinen, director of key accounts and strategy at Valtra.
Kimmo Pentikäinen, vice president of business development at Elisa, said: “Situations that require completely delay-free technology and high image quality, enabled by a tenfold increase in data speed, definitely call for 5G… Authorities often encounter situations where these solutions are needed, as do various companies and organisations, whose operations 5G solutions can make more efficient.”
The collaboration is featured at Elisa’s 5G Showroom in Helsinki, as one of nine 5G solutions and services. It is also being piloted in Raisio, 150 kilometers from Helsinki, via a control room in Pasila, in the Finnish capital. Three of the nine showcases in the 5G Showroom are presented as technological firsts, including the 5G controlled tractor setup with Valtra.
The others two are a mobile 5G app to review 3D models of building construction in real time, where multi-gigabyte 3D building designs can be streamed to the app for review and interaction, and 360-degree VR live stream with 8K resolution, for us in situations that demand high-quality and wide footage of the surroundings, such as in drone operations.