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Crane Boom Leads to Changed Australian Skylines

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Recently, there’s been a number of high profile incidents involving cranes falling out of the sky. A collapsed crane in Wolli Creek in August left hundreds of people unable to access their homes. In a more picturesque scenario, a barge mounted crane fell into Sydney Harbour near the iconic Luna Park – these have occurred within a matter of months.

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation: are more cranes falling out of the sky because, simply, there are more cranes in the sky?

Jeremy Farrington, project director at Amey, believes this is the case. He notes that although there has been an increase in cranes collapsing in Australia in the last two years, there has been no common reason for all of the collapses. Each of them has failed in its own unique way.

“The sheer number of cranes in Sydney is rising, and as a percentage, the instances of incidents involving cranes are rising alongside this,” he remarks.

“The sheer number of cranes in Sydney is rising, and as a percentage, the instances of incidents involving cranes are rising alongside this,” he remarks. Boom Town

Australia’s construction boom of the past few years shows no signs of slowing down, which will mean an even higher number of cranes dotting the skylines of our major cities.

According to Farrington, up until last year, this boom was predominantly residential. Now, however, it is due to government infrastructure spend. Industry expansion means cranes are in greater demand than ever before.

“This increased demand leads to a greater probability of accidents happening because every single crane resource out there is being used to complete so much more work than previously,” he notes. “I’ve also heard of plenty of instances where jobsites have been delayed due to the lack of available cranes.”

The Crane of the Future

Typically, wind support and hazard reduction have been the general safety boxes that must be ticked when assembling cranes. Since they can be assembled on temporary bases that later form part of the overall structure, a qualified engineer must sign that structure off to ensure it can support the weight of the crane and the pressures exerted when lifting loads. Such stringent measures can assist in preventing malfunctions with cranes that lead to them collapsing.

The crane of the future will be an entirely different beast, according to Farrington. Automation and the myriad of effects it will have on the infrastructure and operation of cranes is one of the biggest catalysts for the emergence of the crane of the future.

According to Farrington, automation will drastically improve common problems associated with operating cranes, such as spatial awareness. Automated technology can already tell the operator where and how items should be picked up and put down, all thanks to smart cameras mounted on the end of crane hooks. Through automation technology, cranes can also position themselves without human intervention, selecting the safest position based on variables, such as where the wind is blowing, and where the load is positioned.

So, through the use of automation technology, will cranes one day be able to operate totally independently of human interaction? 

“We are approaching the next frontier of automation technology with cranes, where through the use of strategically-placed radar sensors around the jobsite, cranes can calculate the best route to dropping materials off around the site. It’s a very exciting time to be in the industry and see what new technology can help us build,” Farrington says.

It is clear that cranes are playing a crucial role in the construction boom being experienced across the country. The technology is constantly improving. Electric cranes are becoming more and more ubiquitous on jobsites around the country, introducing more cost-effective measures driving efficiencies.

So, through the use of automation technology, will cranes one day be able to operate totally independently of human interaction?

“Never say never,” remarks Farrington.

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