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Autonomous Walking Excavator Can Build Walls, Dig Trenches

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This walking excavator operates on its own.

A prototype of a 12-ton autonomous construction vehicle has demonstrated that it can operate on very difficult terrain without a human operator.

Credit: Dominic Jud

A construction vehicle can operate autonomously on rough terrain, thanks to a team of Swiss-German engineers that adapted a walking excavator to perform various tasks.

Researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland made the prototype Hydraulic Excavator for an Autonomous Purpose (HEAP) autonomous through the use of algorithms, control mechanisms, and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR).

The 12-ton HEAP was programmed to use an excavator bucket and a two-finger gripper, and was able to construct a four-meter (13-foot)-high stone wall, grab trees for mock forestry work, and dig out a trench containing live ammunition from World War II.

ETH Zurich's Dominic Jud said one of the biggest challenges in switching the excavator from human operation to a computer running open source Ubuntu software was reengineering the cabin controls to drive the hydraulic pumps.

Jud said HEAP is roughly as accurate as human operators in executing tasks, although not yet as quick.

From New Scientist
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