Robot might make construction sites safer

CNN News - From Correspondent Rick Lockridge

December 11, 1998

(CNN) -- Researchers at the U.S. Commerce Department are
developing remote-controlled cranes in hopes of making
construction sites safer places.

A building site can be a dangerous place to work, due in
part to heavy equipment, heavy loads that can dangle from
cables, and working in close quarters with lots of people.

Often, the equipment operator can't actually see what he or
she is doing, and has to rely on hand signals or guidance
sent by two-way radio.

But the department's experimental crane could reduce some of
that danger.

"This is a crane that allows you to look at objects and
manipulate them very precisely, more so than you could with
any existing type of crane," explained Bill Stone of the
National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Conventional cranes can only maneuver loads in three

But, the experimental crane controls its load in eight
directions, making it easier to keep it from swinging out of
control. The increased ability to control the load also
reduces the need for workers to guide it by hand.

The experimental robotic crane incorporates technology that
can send live data from the construction site to a command
center. The information can be used in a variety of ways.

The robotic crane uses sensors, video cameras and the global
positioning system to see where it's going and what it's

"We are sensing the location, the position and the
orientation of the machine in real time," Stone said. "That
information is wirelessly transferred off the machine to a
receiver at the construction site shack. It then goes from
there down the Internet to a receiving station."

The crane operator doesn't have to be in the same location
as the crane

That means the crane operator doesn't have to be in the
crane cab, or on the construction site -- or even in the
same city.

In addition, the data sent from the robotic crane to the
construction shack can be used to control the machine,
monitor progress and plan ahead.

"It allows us to simulate ahead of time, planning without
actually moving the object on site" Stone said. ( 408 K/18
sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

The U.S. Navy will be giving the experimental crane its
first big test. The crane will be used to automatically
deploy welding robots used for Navy shipbuilding.

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