Autonomous navigation for crawler-based compost tedders

Short Description

Starting point / motivation

The project "Autonomous navigation for tracked compost turners" (ANTON) aims to automate composting by means of satellite-based navigation technologies (GNSS).

Contents and goals

In the course of this project, a navigation module as well as a control module for a driverless, electrically driven compost turner will be developed and tested.

Two years ago, the idea of developing an autonomous, electrically powered compost turner was born at the company Pusch & Schinnerl together with selected customers who run compost companies. Within partially funded preliminary research projects, the energetic optimization for compost turners has already been investigated to enable the transition from diesel engines to more environmentally friendly electric motors in said vehicles. Based on these projects, a prototype for an electrically driven compost turner has been developed and assembled. Within the project ANTON, the aspect of an autonomous, self-driving compost turner shall be investigated thoroughly.

A fundamental task during the process of composting is turning the biogenic material with machines. Currently, this is conducted and monitored by an operator inside the driver’s cab of a diesel-driven compost turner or conventional loader. Due to low driving speeds of compost turners (approx. 50 to 300 m/h), high ambient temperatures, released gases, and bad smell during compost turning, the operator is exposed to very unpleasant conditions.


The aim of the project ANTON is to develop a robust and reliable navigation module as well as a control architecture for autonomous, tracked compost turners and to test the developed prototype on a composting facility. It should be evaluated whether an autonomous compost turner yields a more efficient workflow compared to a manually operated vehicle. The primary innovation is determining a highly precise and robust position of the compost turner under the so far non-tested surrounding conditions.

The use of GNSS-RTK (real-time kinematics) allows to determine a cm-level accurate position in real-time. To increase the robustness of the system, the GNSS-based position is fused with accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers in an Extended Kalman Filter. By mounting two GNSS antennas and image-based sensors on the compost turner, the orientation of the machine shall be determined with high accuracy.

For the motion control of the vehicle, a control structure within a Software in the Loop (SiL) environment shall be established and evaluated. For that matter, the regulation software is directly coupled with a simulation model, which describes the driving characteristics of the tracked vehicle.

Expected results

Even though the stage of development of self-driving wheel-based vehicles is quite advanced, the same cannot be said for self-driving tracked vehicles. Thus, the project ANTON shall help in settling this shortcoming.

Project Partners


Graz University of Technology - Institute of Geodesy / Navigation Group

Project partner

  • Pusch & Schinnerl GmbH
  • Graz University of Technology - Institute of Technical Logistics

Contact Address

Graz University of Technology
Institute of Geodesy
Navigation Group
Ao.Univ.-Prof. Dr. Manfred Wieser
Steyrergasse 30/III
A-8010 Graz