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By John Biggs
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As children, we all enjoyed playing in piles of dirt with toy construction equipment, making our own sound effects as we dug holes or loaded up miniature bulldozers with rocks. Major market players have introduced lines of remote-controlled heavy machinery that might bring back those childhood memories of playing, but with very real and functional equipment packing considerably more horsepower.
There have been many advances in remote-control technology in recent years. Heavy machinery can be controlled up to 1,000 feet away by remote, keeping workers at a safe distance from potentially hazardous jobs. Drone use has exploded in construction for tasks like surveying and aerial photography of jobsites in the preconstruction phase, many of which are controlled by remote operators. But remote control isn’t limited to drones. Today we’re seeing actual remote-controlled heavy machinery that can do everything from bulldozing to loading to demolition.
Caterpillar and TORC Robotics RemoteTask™
The RemoteTask is a remote-control system for Cat’s D-series Skid Steer, Multi-Terrain and Compact Track Loaders which gives operators precision control of the machines from distances as far as 1,000 feet away. Caterpillar says the remote operates with almost no perceptible lag in response time, mimicking in-cab ease of control and giving operators an easy way to transition to remote operation. The RemoteTask system can be retrofitted onto existing compatible machines in Cat’s lineup, installed in about an hour by a licensed Cat dealer. Once installed, the system lets the user choose between manual and remote-control mode with the flip of a switch, and it’s transferable between machinery.
Komatsu D155AXI-8 Radio Control Crawler Dozer
The D155AXI-8 from Komatsu boasts Intelligent Machine Control technology which blurs the line between in-cab operation and remote operation by automatically controlling the machine’s blade load to optimal levels while minimizing shoe slip, according to Komatsu. It enables line-of-sight control by remote operator for up to 300 feet away, and can be used for dozing of everything from simple planes to more complex surfaces. Since it requires no on-board operator, the D155AXI-8 is cabless.
Husqvarna DXR 250 Demolition Robot
The follow-up to Husqvarna’s first remote-controlled demo robot, the DXR 310, the 250 offers powerful demolition features in a compact package, weighing in at just over 3,500 pounds. Thomas Nilsson, Business Manager Demolition Equipment for Husqvarna, calls the DXR 250 “the most powerful machine in its size class on the market.” The DXR 250 is suited for minor demolition jobs, particularly in sensitive environments like indoor work and pile-driving work. The company’s remote control system uses Bluetooth technology, which they say makes it the easiest to use on the market. The remote’s display also shows when the bot is due for repairs or maintenance, and is built to endure demolition environment hazards like concrete dust, water and heavy vibrations. It can rip through concrete, but is also nimble enough to operate in sensitive indoor environments.
Brokk’s SmartPower Line
Swedish company Brokk offers a whole lineup of 10 compact remote-controlled demolition robots powered by its SmartPower, SmartRemote and SmartDesign systems, which offer enhanced ergonomics and productivity without sacrificing durability and serviceability. The roster of remote-controlled Brokk machines ensures companies can find the right size machine for the job, which pack a powerful punch and loading capabilities suited to demolition jobs large and small. The machines’ arms can be equipped with a multitude of attachments including breakers, crushers and rock splitters.
The ability to control heavy machinery from afar is an advancement that helps keep workers safe on the job while giving them the granular control over the machinery they need to get the job done. It’s still relatively early days for such remote-controlled equipment, but the inclusion of the technology by big companies indicates it’s something the industry is seriously looking at.
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