Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.
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30 unmanned systems inside December 2016/January 2017 LAND MATERIALS DELIVERY Photo courtesy of Clearpath Robotics that will enable it to operate autonomously—a process that's also key for a driverless passenger car. But unlike a driverless passenger car, OTTO doesn't have the benefit of years of GIS and traf- fic data or road network data that provides road names and speed limits—that is something the team must create. Working closely with their customers, they develop road networks in these facilities and establish addresses for the areas the OTTO fleet will need to travel to and from. Once addresses for shelving and assembly lines are configured, the system is connected to a network of smartphones on the factory floor, Rendall said. Operators press a button on a smartphone or tablet when they need a vehicle, the OTTO arrives within minutes and opera- tors then press another button to tell it where to go. The system automatically matches the job to the right vehicle for the most efficient workflow. The Benefits Deploying industrial vehicles inside facto- ries and warehouses smooths operations and makes material movement more predictable and reliable, Christensen said. "You don't have people who don't show up for work one day or who stop in the middle of the aisle to talk to a buddy about last night's game or who stop to take a smoke break," Christensen said. "Humans introduce unpre- dictability and that generates cost. Automa- tion has a direct economic benefit and a very significant safety benefit as well." As with driverless passenger cars, driverless industrial vehicles can potentially reduce the number of accidents caused by human error, Rendall said. In fact, many of Clearpath's cus- tomers are motivated to purchase an OTTO because they want to improve safety in their operations. Fortunately indoor systems, in- cluding the more automated systems, do not have to deal with the same sort of regulatory barriers and infrastructure issues facing driv- erless passenger cars, enabling companies to implement them more quickly. The OTTO also refuels autonomously, Clearpath Robotics CEO Matt Rendall said, which is something he hasn't really seen yet in the outdoor space. The Clearpath team installs "super char- gers" throughout the facilities so the system can automatically handle refueling. "If you're a plant manager you don't care if OTTO 7 or OTTO 4 does the job; you just need the part picked up and delivered on time," he said. "When OTTO 4 is down for a charge it won't get assigned to do a job as long as another vehicle is available to do the work. The charging system we run uses a concept called opportunity charging. Instead of running the OTTO from 100 per- cent charge to 0 charge, the OTTO will do two or three deliveries and then charge for 5 minutes and wait for the next job. It gets small bursts of charge continuously throughout the day, which is a different way to manage refueling." Because they're NOT ABLE TO USE GPS INSIDE WARE- HOUSES and factories, the team at Clearpath Robotics has to rely more on their software and their sensors to ensure the OTTO can efficiently transport materials from place to place. "We use the 2-D laser scanner to build a reference map and then emulate the output of GPS," Rendall said. "We're able to use what the eyes of our robots see to build a map of where we are inside the facility. Humans are good navigators but we don't have GPS. We use nothing but our eyes to make decisions on how we get from one place to another. That's the type of soft- ware we're building." REFUELING NAVIGATING WITHOUT GPS