News and Technical

BAM Nuttall’s robot dog collects data on remote Shetlands site

BAM Nuttall has trialled Spot the robot dog on a remote Shetlands site (Image courtesy of BAM Nuttall)
BAM Nuttall has trialled Spot the robot dog on a remote Shetlands site (Image courtesy of BAM Nuttall)

BAM Nuttall has used a Spot robot dog to collect data on a remote Shetlands construction site.

The contractor fitted the Boston Dynamics-made Spot robot dog with a Trimble X7 3D laser scanner. It used a private standalone 5G network for remote control.

BAM then controlled Spot and the Trimble X7 remotely to collect data and create site records via the 5G network. The network covers the 55,176 sq m site in the Shetlands. The trial marks the robot’s first 5G deployment in the UK.

Remote operation

Given the site’s isolated location, challenging terrain and the harsh weather, remote operation was critical to the trial’s success. It proved the robot could handle days of manual surveying work and operate in areas and conditions hazardous to people. No operators needed to be on site or even travel to the remote island at all.

BAM Nuttall deployed Spot as part of a 5G test funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It led a consortium, with Attocore and BRE, to not only create a private 5G standalone network on a remote construction site in Shetland, but to employ several new technologies and review their benefits for construction.

BAM Nuttall also worked with Trimble and Boston Dynamics to ensure the best application for the industry.

‘Potential within construction’

Colin Evison, head of innovation at BAM Nuttall, said: “This is just the start of our journey with Trimble and Boston Dynamics. We’ve worked with them every step of the way, conducting site visits and feeding back how Spot is working for us. Boston Dynamics has been successful at applying the technology across many industries. And both they and us can see the potential within construction.

What Spot the robot dog sees.
What Spot the robot dog sees.

“When technology enters a new market for any industry, changes need to be made to make a solution that is bespoke to the situations encountered day-to-day. Trimble and Boston Dynamics have welcomed feedback from the start. And our collaborative relationship has led to a solution that we believe could revolutionise our ways of working.

“As we face a skills shortage, Spot has a number of benefits to safety and job design. This is all in addition to improvements to the efficiency and accuracy of our work.”

Proving the value of robots

Brian Ringley, construction product manager for Boston Dynamics, added: “This project is exciting for us because it’s exactly the kind of application where a robot inherently makes sense and can immediately add value.

“It also shows that we can operate Spot effectively from hundreds of miles away and collect very reliable, repeatable data. It keeps staff from needing to travel to remote and hazardous locations. And it makes the entire surveying project run more efficiently. We’re looking forward to the next steps with the BAM Nuttall and Trimble teams.”

David Burczyk, construction robotics lead at Trimble, said: “BAM Nuttall’s deployment of the Trimble-Boston Dynamics integrated robot solution, combined with a private 5G network, has demonstrated the possibilities of unsupervised, large-scale and real-time data collection on remote sites.

“This combination will enable any jobsite leader to deploy Spot and Trimble technologies, even on sites that are remote or lack services, to get an accurate and more comprehensive view of construction progress to take proactive measures to ensure on-time, on-budget and safer project delivery.”

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