BAM Nuttall tests robot dog with 5G-enabled remote control

BAM Nuttall has successfully trialled the Trimble X7 3D laser scanner fitted to Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot in a remote construction setting, using a private standalone 5G network for remote control.

Spot and the Trimble X7 were controlled remotely to collect data and create site records via a private 5G communications network covering the 55,176 sq m site in the Shetlands, marking the robot’s first 5G deployment in the UK.

Given the site’s isolated location, challenging terrain and the harsh weather conditions, remote operation was critical to the trial’s success, as it proved the robot could handle days of manual surveying work and operate in areas and conditions hazardous to people – without operators needing to be on site or even travel to the remote island at all.

Spot was deployed as part of a 5G test bed funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. BAM Nuttall led a consortium, with Attocore and BRE, to not only create a private 5G standalone network on a remote construction site in Shetland, but to employ several new technologies and review their benefits for construction.

BAM Nuttall also worked closely with Trimble and Boston Dynamics to ensure the best application for the industry.

Seeing what Spot sees

Colin Evison, head of innovation at BAM Nuttall, said: “This is just the start of our journey with Trimble and Boston Dynamics. We’ve worked with them every step of the way, conducting site visits and feeding back how Spot is working for us. Boston Dynamics has been successful at applying the technology across many industries and both they and us can see the potential within construction.

“When technology enters a new market for any industry, changes need to be made to make a solution that is bespoke to the situations encountered day-to-day. Trimble and Boston Dynamics have welcomed feedback from the start and our collaborative relationship has led to a solution that we believe could revolutionise our ways of working.

“As we face a skills shortage, become more in tune with the wellbeing of our people, and strive for more diversity, Spot has a number of benefits to safety and job design. This is all in addition to improvements to the efficiency and accuracy of our work.”

Proving the value of robots

Brian Ringley, construction product manager for Boston Dynamics, added: “This project is exciting for us because it’s exactly the kind of application where a robot inherently makes sense and can immediately add value. It also shows that we can operate Spot effectively from hundreds of miles away and collect very reliable, repeatable data. It keeps staff from needing to travel to remote and hazardous locations, and it makes the entire surveying project run more efficiently. We’re looking forward to the next steps with the BAM Nuttall and Trimble teams.”

David Burczyk, construction robotics lead at Trimble, said: “BAM Nuttall’s deployment of the Trimble-Boston Dynamics integrated robot solution, combined with a private 5G network, has demonstrated the possibilities of unsupervised, large-scale and real-time data collection on remote sites.

“This combination will enable any jobsite leader to deploy Spot and Trimble technologies, even on sites that are remote or lack services, to get an accurate and more comprehensive view of construction progress to take proactive measures to ensure on-time, on-budget and safer project delivery.”

Digital infrastructure minister Julia Lopez said: “This trial is demonstrating the amazing potential of 5G-powered robotics to get projects built in less time and at less cost all while improving safety.

“I’m delighted it’s been made possible thanks to the government’s £200m 5G scheme to ensure we put this powerful new mobile technology to best use to boost our industries and improve people’s lives.”

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