- Providence, Rhode Island-based Gilbane Building Co. has announced a partnership with Nextera Robotics to develop an artificial intelligence platform that utilizes a fleet of autonomous mobile robots to track construction progress and provide safety monitoring at jobsites.
- The platform, called "Didge," provides autonomous "eyes-on-site" by obtaining detailed visual data at construction sites, creating a bridge to the field between design models, digital twins and plans, according to a press release.
- Additionally, the platform will be able to monitor environmental conditions and enhance security and surveillance on project sites.
Each Didge robot can drive for up to six hours before it parks itself at a base station to charge. The robots drive with a similar navigation system to self-driving vehicles, and use sensors, cameras and software to make decisions about navigating the jobsite.
The fleet of robots includes both wheeled and tread versions, capable of scaling stairs or using human-operated hoists to traverse. No matter the type, they all share the same "brains" and "eyes," the release said, within the fleet management cloud.
The collected data provides a glimpse into the as-built jobsite with 360 degree images on a 3D map, and the platform can provide a visual archive, allowing for a behind-the-walls look into a building's infrastructure.
Nextera has previously partnered with another New England contractor, Windover, to pilot an autonomous laser scanning robot on the jobsite.
By having a robot that can navigate difficult terrain and take pictures, contractors can frequently capture up-to-date jobsite data, without having to pull a superintendent, manager or other worker away from a task to have them perform the scan. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, matching digital models and plans to the reality on the jobsite has been more important, as not all stakeholders can visit sites.
Gilbane is looking to leverage that on its work.
"Our robotics platform is designed to offer a cost-efficient, automated means to make construction sites safer and more efficient," Michael McKelvy, president and CEO of Gilbane Building Company, said in a statement.
It is a time of expansion for the contractor, which recently grown its corporate presence in Boston, while keeping its headquarters in Providence. McKelvy said Gilbane chose to focus on Boston for its attractive talent pool, which includes recent graduates of prestigious universities; the high-tech customers the city offers; and the global business in the city, McKelvy told Construction Dive at the time of the move.
Other solutions provided by Boston-based Nextera include the autonomous Oliver, a layout and scan robot; prefabricated wall and floor panels; and drywall installation robots, according to its website.