Collaboration Advances Legged Robot Research on VA Tech Construction Sites

Additional benefits of using autonomous robots in construction monitoring resulting from the research included improved reality data in terms of accuracy and consistency of reality capture data as well as educational opportunities for both students. students and workforce training.

The survey ended in September with results published in the proceedings of the 57th Annual International Conference of Associated Schools of Construction (ASC), the 2021 ASCE International Conference on Computing in Civil Engineering (i3CE2021) and the 38th International Symposium on Automation and Robotics in Construction (ISARC). The team also presented a Robotics and reality capture for remote inspection and documentation training session at the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA 2021) conference in Philadelphia.

Do these opportunities mean that Spot is ready for deployment in active construction environments?

Not yet.

The dynamic nature of active construction sites poses operational limits in the deployment of robotic technologies in this way.

“We have found that the operation of Spot is currently limited to certain specific conditions. Currently, Spot cannot see transparent objects and he cannot work around ropes which are common on construction sites and can entangle his legs. We saw it firsthand in the Creativity and Innovation District Residence Hall – a now completed capital construction project whose environment has progressed rapidly over the past year and in the Holden Hall project, ”said Walid. Thabet, Professor in the Department of Building Construction and Co-Principal Investigator. .

Autonomy of robots is another challenge. “Fully autonomous mobile robots in unstructured construction site environments will take longer to achieve and robot autonomy is an area of ​​ongoing research,” Afsari explained.

“Currently, Spot navigation on construction sites requires the constant intervention of a human operator. Our experiences at live construction sites have shown that the robot’s autonomous mission currently faces challenges in navigating a dynamic changing environment that causes the robot to locate error. Additionally, Spot might not be able to adjust its trajectory and complete its autonomous mission if the spaces on its previously recorded trajectory are cluttered with building materials, ”said Srijeet Halder, a doctoral student. student at the ARCADE laboratory and graduate research assistant in this project.

Safety limitations would be another barrier to Spot leaving on an active job site. “Construction sites are dangerous environments. While the use of robots – especially on remote or hard-to-reach job sites – can potentially help reduce risks to human safety, the implementation of robotic construction technology should be carefully analyzed in advance. to reduce risk on construction sites, ”said DeVito.

For researchers at Virginia Tech and Procon, having a standard operating procedure in place before using the robot on construction sites was critical to the safe operation of Spot on three capital construction sites.

“At the heart of our research implementation strategy was a coordinated approach to mitigate risk and maximize human security. The Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure and Facilities, the University’s Legal Counsel, the Office of Risk Management, Virginia Tech Procurement, WM Jordan and many others have worked diligently to identify the potential dangers of research to help the research team develop a standard operating procedure. for the robot before the operation, ”said Ely.

The standard operating procedure developed in this research included the hours when Spot could be used autonomously on job sites – during lunch breaks and outside working hours – when its navigation path can be isolated from human workers. It also included requirements for inspecting the construction environment and clearing the robot’s navigation path of hazardous objects, including cords before operation, to reduce the risk of tripping and falling.

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