Press Release

Hannover Messe 2021: Autonomous construction site – commercial vehicles and construction machinery work together autonomously

Researchers at Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (TUK) are developing a system to link autonomous machines and equipment at construction sites, so they exchange data and communicate with each other. A key feature of the system are sensors that consistently provide real time data to support autonomous decisions. TUK researchers will present their platform at the digital Hannover Messe from April 12 to 16 at the Rhineland-Palatinate research and innovation stand.

Imagine a foreman working at a construction site logs into his computer at the beginning of his shift in the morning. A computer system uses the Internet of Things to interconnect devices, commercial vehicles, construction machinery and environmental sensors. Using this system, the foreman commissions an excavator to dig a pit of several cubic metres at a specific location on the construction site. The excavator then drives off autonomously to the desired destination. There it starts to remove the soil. In order for the earth to be removed, the excavator independently calls dump trucks over, so that the excavator can fill them with earth. Once the first truck has been loaded with enough earth, the second one moves into place to be filled. This is not a vision of the distant future. A virtual model is under development today by Sven Forte, Karl-Gerhard Faißt and colleagues at the Institute for Virtual Product Development (VPE) at Technische Universität Kaiserslautern.

"We are developing an overall system in which all machines and devices are interconnected via the Internet of Things (IoT) and exchange data with each other. In this case, the human being is actually only an observer," says Forte. Sensors record all data that are generated on the construction site. A kind of control centre receives all data and thus has a clear overview. In addition, commercial vehicles can exchange data directly with each other, for example via Wi-Fi, provided they are not too far apart. Otherwise, communication takes place via mobile phone networks. "The actual state on the construction site is thus permanently monitored, each machine and each commercial vehicle is informed about the current activities of the others," continues Forte. Also a foreman would have such data displayed on a monitor or tablet.

Experts speak of "Closed-loop Systems Engineering" when referring to the development of such smart, networked machine systems. This refers to the development of such a system in several validation stages, so-called loops, in which all requirements and necessary functions are first collected and then linked and validated. In a further development stage, the system could then be capable of self-regulation.

If there are problems somewhere, the system is able to report them directly. "This may be the case with strong vibrations that can occur when digging a pit," Faißt says. Depending on the intensity of the landslide, the construction site would have to be closed for safety reasons. The system would initiate this process immediately and inform involved persons and devices. Construction machinery would immediately stop working. Wear and tear as well as abrasion can also be closely monitored with the system.

The Kaiserslautern researchers are currently testing their virtual system on a demonstrator facility in the engineering 4.0 lab (e4lab), a transfer lab of the Open Digitalization Alliance Palatinate. Model vehicles are used for this purpose, with which the engineers check, among other things, communication between the vehicles.

In a next step, the engineers intend to add further parameters to their model. For example, they plan to integrate a wind turbine to generate energy. "This would enable us to use and refuel vehicles that are electrically powered," Faißt explains. Weather data, such as wind and rain, will be integrated into the simulation. "If it rains heavily, for example, the earth that is soaked up becomes heavier," Faißt continues. As a result, trucks could be less fully loaded, so that more vehicles would have to be used.

Besides the Institute VPE, led by Professor Dr Jens Göbel, the industrial cooperation partner CONTACT Software GmbH is involved in the project. The engineering 4.0 lab and the Open Digitalization Alliance Palatinate are being funded in the "Innovative University" program by the federal and state governments to strengthen technology transfer.

At the Hannover Messe, the researchers will present their construction site scenario and show how the model vehicles are interconnected and communicate with each other.

Questions can be directed to:
Sven Forte
Institute of Virtual Product Engineering (VPE)
E-mail: forte[at]mv.uni-kl.de
Phone: +49 631 205-3741

Karl-Gerhard Faißt
Institute of Virtual Product Engineering (VPE)
E-mail: faisst[at]mv.uni-kl.de
Phone: +49 631 205-3965

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Klaus Dosch, Department of Technology and Innovation, is organizing the presentation of the researchers of the TU Kaiserslautern at the digital fair. He is the contact partner for companies and, among other things, establishes contacts to science.
Contact: Klaus Dosch, Email: dosch@rti.uni-kl.de, Phone: +49 631 205-3001



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