- Construction tech developer Built Robotics’ fully autonomous construction equipment is now available to contractors and heavy machine operators. A software upgrade to excavating equipment will allow the machinery to operate autonomously or be piloted remotely, making it the first of its kind to be offered commercially in the U.S.
- With Built’s software, equipment is able to perform common tasks fully autonomously, such as digging trenches, excavating foundations, and grading building pads. The autonomous fleet can be managed via a web-based platform, which allows remote equipment operators to supervise the robots.
- Attendees of the CONEXPO-CON/AGG Convention in Las Vegas next month will be able to see the technology in use on an excavator, bulldozer and compact track loader. From Las Vegas, convention-goers will be able to pilot machinery set up on a jobsite in Houston using keyboard commands, according to Erol Ahmed, Built director of communications.
Heavy equipment that is outfitted with Built’s software uses GPS and LIDAR systems to dig trenches between pre-determined GPS points on a construction site. Ahmed said that much of the focus for the implementation of the autonomous machinery software has been on earth moving, but Built Robotics plans to expand beyond tasks like trench-digging.
Onboard cameras and the LIDAR systems will also notify the autonomous machinery of nearby workers or other vehicles, Ahmed said. In addition, machine operators will be able to establish a “geo-fence” that the robot is unable to operate outside of.
Remote-controlled machines will be completely keyboard-operated, Ahmed said, as opposed to employing joystick or handheld controllers as drones often do. Using the keyboard will allow operators to control the machinery through a web-based platform.
Some autonomous excavating and earth-moving equipment has already been used on U.S. jobsites, Ahmed said. A Mortenson wind farm project was the site of much of the research and development phase for Built’s software, which controlled the heavy machinery that dug foundations for wind turbines.
The artificial intelligence (AI) guidance systems work on machinery from any equipment manufacturer, Ahmed told Construction Dive, while still maintaining complete manual operation capabilities.
Upgrading and training to use the software through Built can take one or two days, Ahmed said. Customers then pay a monthly subscription fee for using the software, as well as an hourly fee based on the usage of the robot. Ahmed did not share specifics on pricing.
After receiving training, Ahmed said operators could be overseeing multiple autonomous machines at once, and that the time one autonomous machine takes to perform a task is comparable to a human piloting it.
CONEXPO will also showcase Komatsu’s bulldozer with blade control. Although not autonomous, the dozer is able to capture data about the grading of a site, determine blade height and decide whether to cut or spread material. Komatsu first unveiled the dozers in the summer of 2019.