NEC Develops Autonomous backhoe operation system for construction sites

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NEC Corporation and TAIYU Co., Ltd. have jointly developed an autonomous backhoe operation system that automates sediment loading as an important step in the autonomy of construction machinery.

In recent years, labor shortages due to the aging of skilled workers and a decline in the number of younger workers have become urgent issues for the construction industry in Japan.

As a result, labor saving measures for the improvement of productivity have become increasingly important. For this reason, there are great expectations for the automation of construction technology, especially for the development of technology to automate heavy machinery that is currently operated by technically skilled workers.

In order to address these issues, OBAYASHI, NEC, and TAIYU began joint development of technologies for automating general-purpose construction machinery, aiming to dramatically improve productivity while capitalizing on their collective experience and technological know-how. As an important first step, the companies have developed an autonomous operation system for backhoes.

The autonomous backhoe operation system automatically carries out sediment loading, which represents a large amount of work for civil engineering projects, such as tunneling, underground excavation for large-scale buildings, and other purposes. Sediment loading requires a high degree of skill in order to effectively control backhoes’ arms, booms, and buckets, making it difficult to achieve autonomy.

Therefore, NEC applied its Adaptive Predictive Control Technologies to a general-purpose remote control device, the surrogate, which was jointly developed by OBAYASHI and TAIYU, for installation on backhoes. This system combines OBAYASHI’s know-how of sediment conditions and dump trucks in order to perform controls that take into account backhoe dynamics and constantly changing conditions.

In addition, the use of know-how of technically skilled workers and AI technology has enabled the highly accurate remote control of actions conventionally carried out by technically skilled workers, such as excavation and loading.

Going forward, OBAYASHI will promote the development of next-generation construction production systems capable of realizing high-productivity and high-safety even with few technicians. In the future, the company aims to contribute to solving the shortage of technically skilled workers problem in the construction industry through sales of these systems.

NEC will leverage the results of this collaboration to develop solutions that can be used to improve the efficiency and safety of construction work. Moreover, NEC will utilize network flexibly to accelerate the provision of “NEC Smart Connectivity,” which dynamically links data to people and goods as it creates new social value.

TAIYU aims to promote the expansion of remote and autonomous operations for a wide range of construction equipment through the training of skilled operators, development of surrogates and other innovative new technologies.