Komatsu tests remote control bulldozer
Plans mass production of driverless earthmovers by year's end Metal Tech News – March 30, 2022
Last updated 4/5/2022 at 2:31pm
Bulldozer operators at mining operations may soon be trading in the loud and jarring cabs of these large earthmoving machines for remote-control consoles in air-conditioned offices.
Komatsu Ltd. is testing such remote-control dozer technology at Anglo American's Minas-Rio iron ore mine in Brazil.
Under an agreement between Brazilian subsidiaries of the two companies, a tele-remote Komatsu D375Ai-8 dozer that weighs in at 72.9 metric tons and is able to push 22 cubic meters (29 cubic yards) of earth per pass is to be tested this year at Minas-Rio.
"We think that this is [a] very important strategic project between Anglo and Komatsu for cutting edge mining technology implementation at [an] actual mine site," said Minas-Rio Mine Service Manager Agnus Dei Delgado. "Anglo Minas-Rio expects to improve the mining dozer operational safety and the optimization of iron ore production process."
In addition to making the large dirt-moving machine safer and more productive, the remote-control bulldozing trial aims to lay the groundwork for assisting mining customers that are having difficulties securing human resources due to a shortage of skilled operators.
While bulldozing large piles of dirt and rock seems like a brute force exercise, keeping the work area level and smooth requires delicate and precise operation that is difficult to do with the slight delays of conventional remote-control systems.
To overcome this latency, Komatsu has developed an automatic blade control system that eliminates the need for detailed blade operations during excavation and leveling. The blade control system is integrated with ProVision, a high-precision GPS guidance system for operators offered by Modular Mining Systems Inc., an Arizona-based subsidiary of Komatsu.
At a specially built console in a building miles away from the dozer, the operator is able to monitor his work with views from multiple high-quality cameras installed on and around the dozer being beamed via low-delay video transmission technology that offers an operating environment that is close to being in the seat of the earthmover.
Komatsu, which began developing tele-remote dozer technology for polar worksites in the 1960s, is integrating the technologies and know-how it has developed toward the goal of mass production of large tele-remote bulldozers for mines by the end of this year.
Toward this goal, the Japanese equipment manufacturer is looking at the potential for an additional remote-control dozer trial at a customer site.
Komatsu is also developing autonomous dozers for mining and plans to conduct demonstration experiments of self-operating dozers this year.