Global premier for remote-controlled High-lift wheel loader over 5G

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The global premier of a remote-controlled High-lift wheel loader over 5G is an important step towards remote-controlled machines and safer timber handling.

This week, the first live tests have been completed as part of the research project in which Mid Sweden University is collaborating with SCA, Volvo CE, Telia, Biometria and Skogforsk.

“The aim of the research project is to examine how new technology such as 5G could enable the hundreds of timber terminals across Sweden to be manned with remote-controlled timber loaders in the future. The tests completed this week have shown that the technology works and that it is possible to operate timber loaders and load and unload timber by remote control,” says Mattias O’Nils, Head of STC Research Centre, Mid Sweden University. 

On Thursday, November 18, a milestone was reached as the remote-controlled timber loader was demonstrated under live conditions at SCA’s Torsboda timber terminal outside Timrå, north of Sweden. The results of the testing week have been successful and demonstrated that the new technology can enable remote-controlled terminals, and in doing so, make timber loading more efficient and provide operators with a safer and more conducive work environment, eliminating vibrations from machines, noise and lone working. 

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“This is an excellent project where we can assess how we can use 5G technology for remote control and the possibility of working remotely while connected. The project is entirely in line with SCA’s ambition to drive the trend toward more autonomous vehicles and improved operator support. This is also a key component of making forestry even more sustainable. Remote-controlled terminals can improve the work environment for operators, increase accessibility at the terminals and ensure efficient utilization of our machines,” says Magnus Bergman, head of staff, technology and digitalization at SCA Skog.  

Volvo CE has remodeled and equipped an L180 High-lift wheel loader with connected cameras and sensors that make it possible to remotely control the machine. All data is sent without delay using Telia’s 5G technology, which means that the operator has the same experience as if they were in the machine. This is entirely critical for being able to carry out remote control with precision and in a safe manner. 

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“We can see that tele-operation has major future potential for our customers to improve their operations. For operations in hazardous environments, the operator can be relocated to a secure location with better working conditions. In cases where operations are conducted in several different locations, one operator can manage several terminals at the same time. The project provides an opportunity to test our remote-control platform in a new application with high precision requirements and to learn how the system needs to be designed to meet industry needs,” says Christian Spjutare, Advanced Engineering Program Manager at Volvo CE. 

The Remote Timber research project is supported by Biometria, Mid Sweden University, Volvo Construction Equipment, SCA, Telia and Skogforsk. The research project is financed by the participating parties and by VINNOVA’s vehicle strategic research and innovation (FFI) program. 

The project also maps s current legislation and regulations in order to shed light on the legal preconditions for commercialization. 

Additional comments from the project partners:    

“Our industry-wide platform for remote measurement has rapidly digitalized Swedish timber measurement and created excellent opportunities for AI development. In the long term, we see a similar opportunity for a shared platform also for remote loading and unloading, where we can further strengthen the Swedish forest industry together,” says Tanja Keisu, responsible for Biometria Labs.  

“This partnership is a fine example of how remote control with the latest technology can contribute to more efficient and sustainable construction solutions in the forest industry. A secure and robust digital infrastructure is crucial for this. The unique technical qualities that 5G offers are also entirely critical, in which extremely quick response times and high capacity enable immediate feedback between operator and machine, which is a prerequisite for being able to safely control machines remotely,” explains Magnus Leonhardt, Director, Head of Business Development & Innovation at Telia. 

“In connection with the potential commercialization of the Remote Timber concept, several laws and regulations must be adhered to, in particular, the Swedish Work Environment Act, the Machinery Directive and the Convention on Road Traffic. The Swedish Work Environment Act and Machinery Directive place significant requirements on procedures and security for machines and their systems, but also on the working area with the purpose of controlling who may be present. This primarily aims to prevent accidents in which people may come to harm,” says Jan Johansson, Researcher at Skogforsk. 

Photo: Tina Stafrén and Misan Lindqvist

Source: SCA