DC motors lead the way in ‘Smart’ farming

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Martin Leahy is maxon’s agricultural applications expert for Eire and Northern Ireland. Here, he looks at some applications for small DC motors in the sector.

DC motors lead the way in ‘Smart’ farmingSmart farming, precision agriculture and Agriculture 4.0 all involve the integration of advanced technologies into existing farming architecture. The goal is to increase production efficiency and product quality, as well as reducing overall costs. To this end, the inclusion of Smart technologies into Irish agriculture has been inevitable with increased pressure being placed on farming practices to remain profitable, as well as adhere to environmental regulation.

The global Smart Agriculture Solution Market is said to have stood at around US $10.2 Billion in 2016, and is projected to reach a valuation of US $38.1 Billion by the end of 2024. The growing adoption of advanced technology in farming, from agricultural drones, precision seeding systems, auto-steering, automatic feeding systems and fruit-picking robots (amongst others), have all incentivised traditional agri-companies to invest in smart agriculture technology. The deployment of advanced agri-tech has the potential to allow for an increased focus on non-profitable tasks, such as farm maintenance and environmental practices. The reduction of heavy labour and tedious tasks can also lead to improvements in the health and work/life balance of farming staff.

DC motors are a key component for many agricultural applications, often offering a most efficient form of motion, particularly when solar and battery power is utilised. Some of our own drives are relied on under challenging conditions – for example, they have been in use on Mars for years (although not for agricultural purposes, yet). But DC motors also function in tough agricultural conditions flawlessly and efficiently. Motors, gearheads, sensors, batteries and controllers all constitute the basic building blocks for complex applications. Our own mobile apps include cloud connectivity and give our customers access to a range of functions, including retrieval of current driving data and positions, customisation of parameters and fleet management. All components are verified by our specialists and then perfectly matched to each other. This allows us to offer users a system solution from a single source.


The Vitirover robot is developed by the company of the same name, in Saint-Emilion, France. This fully autonomous lawnmower, powered by solar energy, removes grass and weeds between the vines in a vineyard, eliminating the need for costly and potentially unpleasant pesticides. To enable the robots to navigate hilly terrain, the developers took some cues from our experience with the Mars rovers. The wheel drive is a compact system for Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) as well as self-driving vehicles in intralogistics and outdoor applications. The AGV wheel drive is designed for very high radial loads and the compact design allows for use with our standard flat motors. This flat brushless motor family offers users a combination of high performance and low price, and if a user wishes to fully integrate a device and take care of the shaft and bearing, it is possible by using a flat frameless motor.


According to some reports, the agricultural drone market is anticipated to grow more than 38 per cent over the period 2017–2025. Agricultural drones serve two main purposes, firstly to capture aerial imagery and provide real-time data on crop health and herd health. Secondly they can be used for spraying capabilities because drones have the potential to improve chemical spraying efficiency. Selective spraying techniques require fewer chemicals (delivering environmental and economic benefits) and can also lead to a reduction in water consumption. Popular drone motors (EC flat, sensorless,), batteries (lightweight) and controllers (sensorless, currents up to 100A) are all now available to designers of agricultural drones. Some of our own are characterised by:

  • Outer runner motor, segmented magnets
  • Sensorless, direct wiring (no PCB)
  • High-temp winding & aviation-grade aluminium
  • Optimised cooling
  • Bearing system for long lifetime
  • Maintenance-free
  • Maximum environmental protection
  • Weight optimised

Small motor technology for agriculture-based applications is there right now: a recent development is further illustrated by our own new IP67 12V and 24V DC motors. They have an incremental encoder built inside the motor body, and future versions will also have the option of power activated (or power de-activated) holding brakes. Machine designers have more options now than ever before. The latest generations of motors and associated components are light in weight, powerful, durable and available.

For more information about small motor technology for agriculture-based applications contact Martin on , or go to

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