Remotely operated robot dog carries out site survey in Shetland

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Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot dog has been successfully put to work in a remote construction setting to collect data and create site records.

Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot dog fitted with a Trimble X7 3D laser scanner
Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot dog fitted with a Trimble X7 3D laser scanner - BAM Nuttall

In a trial led by BAM Nuttall, Spot was equipped with a Trimble X7 3D laser scanner, and both were controlled remotely using a private 5G communications network covering the 55,176m2 site, marking the robot’s first 5G deployment in the UK.

Remote operation proved the robot could take on days of manual surveying work and operate in areas and conditions hazardous to people.

Spot was deployed as part of a 5G testbed funded by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. BAM Nuttall led a consortium, with Attocore and BRE, to create a private 5G stand-alone network on a remote construction site in Shetland and employ several new technologies and review their benefits for construction.

In a statement, Brian Ringley, construction product manager for Boston Dynamics said: “This project is… 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.”

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The trail took place at SSEN Transmission’s Shetland HVDC link project at the Kergord substation site in Shetland. Once complete, the Shetland HVDC link will connect Shetland to the GB energy system for the first time.

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 have been successful at applying the technology across many industries and both they and us can see the potential within construction.

“When technology enters a new market for any industry, changes need to be made to make a solution which 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 which we believe could revolutionise our ways of working.”