By Karen L. Edwards
Built Robotics, a company specializing in making robotic construction equipment, announced that it has partnered with construction firm Mortenson to use their earthmoving robotics on renewable projects like wind farms and solar. These types of projects then to be in remote areas that are far from traditional workforce centers, making labor an even bigger challenge than it already is.
According to Built Robotics, their “robotic equipment is able to shoulder some of the load by assisting with basic, repetitive tasks, freeing up human operators to focus on the more specific, complex and critical activities.”
Eric Sellman, Vice President and General Manager of the Civil Group at Mortenson, said in the announcement, “I see Built Robotics as the next generation of construction technology. Consistent with Mortenson’s history of ingenuity and innovation in construction, we are partnering with Built Robotics as they develop and deploy technology that enables autonomous heavy equipment operation. Mortenson and Built Robotics will work together with this technology on select renewable energy projects within our Wind and Solar groups. Our goal is to embrace the change that is happening in our industry to create value for our customers and opportunities for Mortenson and our team members.”
Sellman told Engineering News Record (ENR) that it’s a long-term agreement for the next few years to continue to expand the company’s deployment of autonomous equipment on renewable energy jobs. The company did its first project with Built Robotics in August of 2018, testing the equipment on wind farms in Kansas. Sellman said that the repetitive nature of some of the foundation work on these projects make them a good fit for autonomous equipment. ENR reported that the “machines us GPS tracking to remain within geo-fenced areas, and LIDAR provides collision avoidance and obstacle detection.”
Mortenson employees are excited to be implementing the technology. Molly Morgan, an equipment operator commented, “I’m excited about the potential for Built’s technology. Our top priority is safety — if the robot can work on steep slopes, or near unstable ground, or in challenging or risky situations, then we one-hundred percent should use it. And I’m excited to learn the new skills I’ll need to work with the technology.”
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