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5G Connectivity Helps Robot Become Construction’s Best Friend

17 May, 2022

On a large and remote construction site in Shetland, where the team is battling the elements, covering large distances every day, the Trimble and Boston Dynamics integrated robot solution has become man’s newest four-legged friend.

BAM Nuttall has successfully trialled the integrated Trimble X7 laser scanner with Boston Dynamics’ Spot® robot in a remote construction setting - utilising a private stand-alone 5G network for remote control - in the first use case of its kind.

Enlisting Spot as the newest member of the site team, the four-legged robot has used specially adapted 3D laser scanning equipment to collect data and create site records. Spot and the Trimble X7 payload were controlled remotely using a private 5G communications network covering the 55,176 m2 site, marking the robot’s first 5G deployment in the U.K.

Given the harsh weather conditions, challenging terrain, and isolated location, remote operation was critical to the trial’s success, as it proved the robot could take on days of manual surveying work and operate in areas and conditions hazardous to people - without operators needing to be on site or even travel to the remote island at all.

Spot has been deployed as part of a 5G testbed funded by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. BAM Nuttall led a consortium, with Attocore and BRE, to not only create a private 5G stand-alone network on a remote construction site in Shetland – but to employ several new technologies and review their benefits for construction. BAM Nuttall also worked closely with the Trimble and Boston Dynamics alliance to ensure the best application for the industry.

This world-leading innovation is being trialled at SSEN Transmission’s Shetland HVDC link project at the Kergord substation site in Shetland. Once complete, the Shetland HVDC link will connect Shetland to the GB energy system for the first time, enabling the connection and export of renewable energy as well as helping secure Shetland’s future securing of supply.

Colin Evison, Head of Innovation said,

“This is just the start of our journey with Trimble and Boston Dynamics. We’ve worked with them every step of the way, conducting site visits and feeding back how Spot is working for us. Boston Dynamics have been successful at applying the technology across many industries and both they and us can see the potential within construction.

“When technology enters a new market for any industry, changes need to be made to make a solution which is bespoke to the situations encountered day to day. Trimble and Boston Dynamics have welcomed feedback from the start and our collaborative relationship has led to a solution which we believe could revolutionise our ways of working.

“As we face a skills shortage, become more in tune with the wellbeing of our people, and strive for more diversity, Spot has a number of benefits to safety and job design. This is all in addition to improvements to the efficiency and accuracy of our work.”

Brian Ringley, Construction Product Manager for Boston Dynamics said,

“This project is exciting for us because it’s exactly the kind of application where a robot inherently makes sense and can immediately add value. It also shows that we can operate Spot effectively from hundreds of miles away and collect very reliable, repeatable data. It keeps staff from needing to travel to remote and hazardous locations, and it makes the entire surveying project run more efficiently. We’re looking forward to the next steps with the BAM Nuttall and Trimble teams.”

David Burczyk, Construction Robotics Lead at Trimble said:

"BAM Nuttall's deployment of the Trimble-Boston Dynamics integrated robot solution combined with a private 5G network, has demonstrated the possibilities of unsupervised, large-scale and real-time data collection on remote sites.

"This combination will enable any jobsite leader to deploy Spot and Trimble technologies, even on sites that are remote or lack services, to get an accurate and more comprehensive view of construction progress to take proactive measures to ensure on-time, on-budget and safer project delivery."

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said:

"This trial is demonstrating the amazing potential of 5G-powered robotics to get projects built in less time and at less cost all while improving safety.

"I'm delighted it's been made possible thanks to the UK Government's £200 million 5G scheme to ensure we put this powerful new mobile technology to best use to boost our industries and improve people's lives."

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