FARMING JUST got easier with the introduction of a new autopilot system from Trimble that links Global Positioning System satellites to farm tractors.

Trimble has unveiled its AgGPS Autopilot - a new system that automatically steers tractors to within inches for row-crop applications. The driver, with hands-free operation, can now concentrate on working the implements for listing, bed preparation, planting and cultivating. This technology breakthrough translates into increased productivity for the farmer through more efficient use of tractors and extended working hours.

"Agriculture is a strategic market focus for the company," said Steven W. Berglund, Trimble's president and CEO. "Today, agriculture's costs are determined locally, but pricing is set globally. Innovations like machine control give farmers a competitive advantage to reduce costs in a commodity market. The new AgGPS Autopilot system establishes our leadership in the marketplace, and gives the farmer a high tech solution to meet those needs. It is a natural progression from our existing manual guidance product line and allows us to enter the machine control arena."

Trimble's AgGPS Autopilot system easily connects to the tractor's power steering hydraulic system to automatically steer it in straight rows - pass after pass. A field computer inside the cab allows the operator to select field patterns and display operating parameters. A lightbar is used to guide the tractor on path at the beginning of a row. Once on a row, the driver engages the AgGPS Autopilot system to perform and oversee field operations.

The AgGPS Autopilot saves time and money. It reduces driver fatigue, eliminates guess rows and allows around-the-clock operations. Most importantly, the system increases efficiency to lower the cost per acre. The consistency of straight rows makes subsequent events in the field such as planting, cultivating and harvesting more efficient because there is no longer the need to modify the machine set up when rows are evenly spaced.

At the heart of the system is a high-performance Trimble GPS navigation controller. Attached to the controller is an AgGPS 214 Real-Time Kinematic receiver, in-cab terminal, lightbar and AgGPS 70 Remote Display and Logger. The first generation AgGPS Autopilot system is targeted for high value row crops such as vegetables and cotton.

Trimble's AgGPS Autopilot system was built with safety in mind. At anytime, the driver can disengage the system by simply moving the steering wheel. Other safety features include redundant computers that provide continuous independent checks on system sensors and values, end of row alarms and operator alert alarms.

The AgGPS Autopilot system is expected to be available in the third quarter of 2000 through Trimble's Precision Agricultural Systems Group.

For additional information please contact Trimble Navigation Limited, 645 North Mary Avenue, Post Office Box 3642, Sunnyvale, Calif. 94088-3642. For an interactive look at company news and products, visit Trimble's Website at http://www.trimble.com.