The excavator turned into an autonomous robot capable of digging trenches independently
A combined team of Swiss and German engineers transformed a conventional walking excavator into an autonomous robot that can dig trenches of a specific configuration. At the same time, the accuracy of trenching is quite high – 3 centimeters.
According to the developers of the project, builders need such devices, since they allow to speed up the process of company tranches at the construction site. In addition, a robot can dig a trench more accurately than a person (except, of course, high-class specialists). But there is a problem – for example, the difficulty of displaying a map of the surrounding space for the robot. Another problem is the robot's determination of its own location in a rapidly changing site configuration.
But everything worked out – engineers led by scientist Marco Hutter nevertheless developed an autonomous excavator that can dig trenches of various configurations with high accuracy and speed. The base for the creation of the robot was the walking excavator Menzi Muck M545. The developers of the robot decided to replace the excavator's hydraulic systems with “smart” ones, in which various sensors and sensors are installed.
They enable the system to "understand" and track the strength of interaction with the ground. The excavator is also equipped with GPS sensors and RTK receivers, which increases the accuracy of determining the location of the system, plus lidars and inertial units. Thanks to the refinement, the excavator learned to accurately determine its location, at the same time well "imagining" what soil to dig.
For the robot, special algorithms were created that made it possible to create an environment model, accurately calculating the system of bucket movements necessary to create the trench of the desired shape. One of the difficulties faced by scientists is that the soil, after the bucket leaves the trench, crumbles down. Those. a certain amount of soil returns to its place of excavation. Algorithms provide such an opportunity and the excavator “knows” what to do.
The robot was then tested at one of the construction sites, he needed to dig a trench with a profile in the form of a trapezoid. After completion of the work, it turned out that the accuracy of the system is about 3 centimeters. And this is much higher than the accuracy obtained by other developers.
In the future, this robot excavator will be tested in other conditions. The result should be a robot that knows how to work itself, without supervision and support from the outside. Such a robot will effectively help builders, accelerating the process of digging trenches.
This is not the only project of the team of scientists mentioned above. She has been working on the robotization of excavators and other systems that work on a construction site for several years. So, a similar walking excavator was turned into a unit controlled by a remote operator.