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Democratizing automation in construction – Geospatial World

Randy Noland, Vice President-Global Sales, Hemisphere, GNSS

For the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry, 2020 was a year of opportunity where the stakeholders were forced to rethink their technology strategies to automate their workflows and processes. The trajectory of automation in the construction industry is exciting and automation of such construction solutions will help industry stakeholders improve productivity and efficiency across construction operations of all sizes.

Trajectory of automation in construction industry

Robots and Cobots appear to be the most promising applications of automation in construction. However, in the case of static sites, such as surface mining and building solar farms, integration of sensors is preferred to robots to increase operations and safety associated with on-site activities.

Drones/UAVs are geospatial technologies that lend themselves to autonomy. Drone-based temporal surveillance on top of machines facilitates regular updates of the site model, which subsequently helps the machines decide the movement of materials in an unmanned manner and autonomous.

Technology advancements enabling site automation

Integrated sensor systems are at the forefront of site automation solutions in the AEC industry. Sensor integrations, using position and heading with GNSS, and coupled with INS (inertial navigation systems) have matured over the years and have become more affordable and accessible for stakeholders across the value chain. Development of real-time awareness of the site is possible due to the availability of a mix of sensors, including LiDAR, sonic, optical, etc. For instance, live sensors on a compaction unit allow users to sense optimal compaction, while thermal sensors help map freshly set pavement.

Consolidating key system components

In the AEC industry, the level of automation depends on the democratization of technologies and understanding of value proposition about different types and sizes of machines on-site. Historically, the slow uptake of automated technological solutions was due to high costs. Due to this machine control systems were mostly reserved for larger projects. Simultaneously, machines like small skid steer small excavators were bound to benefit from technologies like positioning and sensor fusion, which cost nearly as much as the machine. This wasn’t cost-effective, and stakeholders weren’t confident in applying such technologies to automate workflows.

Hemisphere’s GradeMetrix solutions provide an opportunity to consolidate several key system components required for positioning, heading, pitch, roll and RTK data link into a single appliance on the machine, which reduces overall system cost without sacrificing performance.

Technology democratization with cost-effective solutions impacts overall productivity positively. Accessibility to appropriate technological solutions to entrylevel operators and advanced power users is vital for successful construction operation at all levels of project size.

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