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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32 unmanned systems inside December 2016/January 2017 LAND MATERIALS DELIVERY "IF YOU REQUIRE multiple sensors to get a thorough understanding of the environment. that introduces a tricky variable from an engineering and regulatory standpoint." Jeff Christensen, vice president of products and services, Seegrid "The promise of self-driving vehicles solves sizeable problems combining the benefits of cost, repeatability and predictability of auto- mated systems with flexibility and a low barrier to entry," Rendall said. "If you look at traditional automation systems, most behave like a metro system. Just like everyone experiences when riding the subway and you have to wait for 18 stops to get where you're going, there's no value added. If the train system goes down your entire line goes down and you lose production. Self- driving vehicles let us move from trains to an autonomous taxi cab or Uber inside the factory. If we accomplish that, we change the economics of the manufacturing process." The Challenges Manufacturing facilities tend to embrace automation, Christensen said, but automat- ing material handling is a newer concept for this sector. He recently visited a German au- tomobile plant with spot welding arms as far as the eye could see. But when he turned just 20 degrees to the left, he saw 30 or 40 people driving manual tuggers to deliver parts to the automated lines. The managers of this facility, like at many others, understood the value of automation but, at least to that point, hadn't found a way to automate materials transport. Part of the reason is that, while self-driving vehicles had been available, they required some type of infrastructure-based navigation system to work—and that meant building a custom sys- tem and carving up the f loor to install wires, Christensen said, an approach that could hin- der operations. "U.S. based manufacturing is a challenging environment," Christensen said. "You have to be nimble and able to control costs and add value when you can. To do that you have to be f lexible in what you can change. They want to automate but they need to be able to do that without painting themselves into a corner." One of the challenges Clearpath Robotics often comes across is getting their self-driv- ing cars to piggy back on a facility's existing network infrastructure, Rendall said. Every warehouse and building is different. A trans- port f leet, whether it comprisies as few as two vehicles or more than a dozen, must also in- tegrate with each client's Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. And then, of course, the team must make sure everything is se- cure—which is vital to clients like GE. "Being a larger business we need to have a lot of security around firewalls and make sure we're not just connected but that we also have the proper security measurements," Espinosa BY THE NUMBERS $ 30 million The amount Clearpath Robotics raised to grow its industrial division, OTTO Motors. For more information read "Clearpath Robotics Raises $30 million" at insideunmannedsystems. com A shared goal A lot of the benefits that prompt manufacturing facilities to adopt driverless technology are also fueling passenger vehicle development, said Dave Bullock, the Intelligent Transportation Systems program lead at Miovision, a company that's developing cloud-based traffic management technology. Efficiency, cost effectiveness and safety are among the shared motivations, but while driverless industrial vehicles are already starting to make an impact indoors, public roads are more sophisticated, making integration more complex. There are many challenges to overcome to put the proper infrastructure in place for driverless cars and to ensure the safety of pedestrians and of other cars on the roads—those with drivers and without. "There are a lot of common themes but you see different challenges on public roads when you talk about government and how they budget for and launch iniatives," Bullock said. "The return on investment you're going to see on vehicle to infrastructure communication investment is very uncertain. Conversely, in the indoor world, if you roll out a driverless industrial vehicle it should generate cost savings immediately. It's very different use cases when you talk about how to make these vehicles cost effective."