AGCO continues to improve its award-winning Fendt IDEAL combine. IDEALDrive is a joystick-operated steering system that will be available to North American farmers for the 2021 harvest season. The innovation is a direct result of the implementation of customer suggestions.
How it works: IDEALDrive is a joystick-operated steering system that will be available to North American farmers for the 2021 harvest season.
With no steering column in the cab, operators have a full side-to-side view of their headers — especially in the middle where the crop begins to feed into the combine. In addition to better visibility, the steering system also increases farmers’ comfort. Furthermore, 180-degree turns can be completed with a slight movement of the wrist rather than four or five turns of the steering wheel at the end of a row.
“It kind of feels like a captain’s chair. You can have both feet on the foot pegs and a hand on the right controlling the propulsion and a hand on the left controlling the steering. With all the controls at your fingertips it’s really nice,” says Zach Stejskal, a product specialist at AGCO. “I would often catch myself leaning back and using a little more of the seat rather than being hunched forward looking over a steering wheel.”
The IDEALDrive uses a joystick on the left side armrest to control the steering. Force feedback on the control guides how far to move the joystick for the desired turn. The wheels come back to centre after the steering adjustment has been made.
Steering is intuitive as sensitivity is relative to the machine’s speed — at slower speeds, the smaller movements on the joystick will create tighter turns. As the speed of the combine increases, the turning degree will change relative to the joystick. This keeps the operator from making the same turn at different speeds.
The joystick also has easy access to controls commonly found on the steering column. Control buttons on the top of the joystick operate turn signals in road mode and row-finder lights in field mode. Buttons on the back of the joystick control high- and low-beam lights, the horn and track guidance.
Some of the testing was carried out on a road course where the combine was driven up and down hills and side to side over a winding track. At the end of the course, drivers would make a 180-degree turn and return to the starting point. According to Stejskal, the new steering system handled the course well, while performing intuitively.
“Obviously, with a combine, you still need to slow down considerably for major turns, but it’s nice not having to turn over the steering wheel a bunch of times to do the same thing that a simple movement of the joystick will do,” said Stejskal.
The left side armrest flips up for entering or exiting the cab and does not take up any more noticeable space around the passenger seat. The armrest’s length is also adjustable so the joystick fits comfortably in the palm of the operator’s hand.
Almost no time was needed for Stejskal to adjust to the steering system. He says anyone can get behind the wheel and drive the combine. In fact, the only adjustment needed, Stejskal said, was to stop reaching for the steering wheel while operating the machine.
The IDEALDrive steering system will be an optional upgrade on combines ordered this summer for the 2021 harvest season.