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Wednesday, January 21, 2015 1:17 PM

Job Site of the Future: Unmanned Bulldozers and Drones for Routine Construction

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Why pay an expensive bulldozer driver for foundation work when a drone from the sky paired with an unmanned bulldozer on the ground can compute 3-D plans and do the job better and faster?

Construction workers move over. You are next to be unneeded, unwanted, and unloved.

The Wall Street Journal reports Drones’ Next Job: Construction Work.

Construction-equipment maker Komatsu Ltd. has plans to solve a potential shortage of construction workers in Japan: Let drones and driverless bulldozers do part of the work.

Tokyo-based Komatsu said Tuesday it plans to use unmanned aircraft, bulldozers and excavators to automate much of the early foundation work on construction sites.

Under Komatsu’s plans, U.S.-made drones would scan job sites from the air and send images to computers to build three-dimensional models of the terrain. Komatsu’s unmanned bulldozers and excavators would then use those models to carry out design plans, digging holes and moving earth.

The drones, made by San Francisco startup Skycatch Inc., and construction equipment would move along largely preprogrammed routes. The goal is to automate the construction site, leaving humans to program the machines and then push a button to send them to work. Human operators would also monitor progress and can jump in to take control of a machine if necessary.

Companies have started employing automated trucks and other equipment at mines in recent years, but Komatsu’s program appears to be one of the most ambitious plans to automate work in a setting as dynamic as a construction site.

The Skycatch drones are programmed to automatically fly over a set area and use sensors to collect data on the terrain below. The drones even return to ground stations and swap in new batteries when power is running low.
Job Site of the Future

"We think this is the future job site," said Akinori Onodera, president of the Komatsu.

The future comes fast these days. Most likely, this will be routine in a few years or so.

Meanwhile, the Fed (central banks in general), and governments are hell-bent on policies that are guaranteed to make matters worse.

Low interest rates to finance such operations, coupled with rising minimum wage demands provides maximum leverage for drones, unmanned vehicles, hardware robots, and software robots to replace humans far quicker than otherwise would happen.

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Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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