Skip to main content

Laser Beam Automatic Grade-Control System

Location: Columbus, OH, USA
Date: 1968Creator(s): Fouss, James

The first laser grade control was developed by agricultural engineers James Fouss and Norman Fausey of USDA's Agricultural Research Service at The Ohio State University in the mid-1960's. That system controlled the precise depth and grade of subsurface drains by regulating trenching and plow-type drainage machines. Photo cells mounted on the drainage machine automatically raised and lowered the digging device, keeping the cells centered on a laser beam set to the desired elevation and grade. The necessary signal processing circuit was designed and fabricated for ARS by Control Systems Co. of Urbana, OH, co-owned by Ted L. Teach.

Concurrently, Robert H. Studebaker, of Tipp City, OH, began to develop a laser controlled motor grader. Studebaker introduced a rotating prism to create a "plane" of laser light that could control several machines on a field. In 1967, Studebaker and Teach formed the LaserPlane Corporation in Dayton, OH. Laser control of a trenching machine was first demonstrated in September, 1968 at the Ohio State Farm Science Review. Prior to laser control, grades were controlled by a skilled machinery operator using a sight bar with a series of targets place at 50 to100 foot intervals. Now, continuous improvements and innovations have led to vastly expanded applications of laser-beam control technology to agricultural, construction, industry, and military tasks, worldwide.

Era: 1960s
Innovation designated by:
Laser Beam Automatic Grade-Control System
Electronic analog computer simulation of the laser‐beam auto‐
matic grade‐control system on the plow.
Agricultural Engineering Building - Ohio State University
590 Woody Hayes Dr
Columbus, OH, USA

We hope you enjoyed this essay.

Please support America's only magazine of the history of engineering and innovation, and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to Invention & Technology.


Stay informed - subscribe to our newsletter.
The subscriber's email address.