Ground robotics technology is maturing at a rapid pace. But despite its potential, many enterprises don’t know where to start on their ground robotics journey. Read on to learn what the experts at Boston Dynamics and InDro Robotics had to say about the benefits of ground robots and how enterprises can use them to gain a competitive advantage.
The Benefits of Ground Robots
Just a decade ago, drones were an expensive and nascent technology. But now they’re a critical data capture tool for enterprises around the world. Ground robots are on a similar trajectory. Although the hardware is still expensive, there’s growing interest from enterprises seeking to use ground robots for critical tasks such as site inspections, data capture, and analysis.
“Looking back at the drone industry a few years ago, we saw a hobbyist product turn into an enterprise product very quickly,” explained Peter King, Head of Robotic Solutions at InDro Robotics. “The technology became more sophisticated and affordable, until you could go down to your local BestBuy and buy a fairly inexpensive unit. Then more businesses started to see the possibilities of drones. The ground robotics industry is expanding as quickly from an enterprise point of view.”
One of the most talked about models is Boston Dynamics’ Spot – an agile quadrupedal robot that can carry payloads up to 14kg. Videos of Spot performing choreographed dance routines have gone viral, but the robot also has practical and exciting applications in the enterprise space, particularly in industries where data capture is critical. What makes Spot really unique is that it’s designed to go into environments normally reserved for humans, instead of areas that are purpose-built for robots.
“Spot is a really capable robot. People are often blown away by what it can do – they can’t believe it can walk up flights of stairs or avoid obstacles so smoothly,” said Tim Dykstra, Director of Channel Sales, Boston Dynamics. “We have clients using Spot for remote teleoperation and sensing applications, who are seeing immediate value and beginning to scale operations.”
Choosing the Right Robot for the Job
Boston Dynamics initially designed Spot as a platform that could carry a wide range of sensors and payloads, serving the needs of different enterprises and industries.
“The decision to make it a platform came from market feedback,” said Dykstra. “We had a lot of industries that expressed initial interest in Spot. We had construction companies interested in progress monitoring and automated laser scanning, public safety groups wanting to inspect packages or locations with biological or chemical threats, nuclear plants wanting to remotely inspect assets, and oil and gas companies wanting to perform autonomous readings and enable predictive maintenance programs.”
Of course, Spot’s not the only robot on the market. From quadrupeds to rovers, and even humanoids, ground robots are being designed to capture data in dirty, dangerous, and remote environments, particularly in the energy and construction industries. But how do you choose the right robot? Start by defining the exact issue your organization is trying to solve.
“At InDro Robotics, organizations often reach out to us with a specific problem they’re trying to solve and ask what we suggest from a robotics perspective,” said King. “Usually, their goals are geared around addressing the labor shortage and redeploying people who are experts in their field away from doing things they shouldn’t be.”
For enterprises seeking to use ground robots for data capture, sensors are also an important consideration. There’s a growing range available – including 360 cameras, gas and thermal sensors, laser scanners, and even acoustic sensors that detect things like air leaks. Some of these sensors come with a heavy price tag, so it’s not practical to install hundreds of them around your facility – implementing a robot to carry them can actually be more cost-effective.
How to Successfully Implement Ground Robots
One trap that businesses fall into is getting too invested in the bigger picture. In recent years, there’s been a lot of buzz about the “lights off” warehouse or factory – where everything is totally automated. But if you’re determined to find technology that can perform every task a human does, it prevents you from taking the first step. Full automation doesn’t happen overnight.
The experts recommend starting small rather than attempting too much at once. “One thing I’ve learned from robotic deployments is they’re a journey, not a sprint,” explained Dykstra. “The companies that are faring the best are ones that started by automating small tasks - such as moving a pallet from one location to another. They learned a lot from that first deployment and continued to scale their autonomous systems from there.
“We’re seeing the same thing with Spot and industrial inspections. Our most successful clients to date started with quick, iterative pilots as they learned the new technology. For example, they begin with manual teleoperation or the DroneDeploy 360 Walkthrough. Start with easier deployments that you can do now, and then think about the bigger picture applications.”
The New DroneDeploy Ground Robotics Solution
Getting started with ground robotics is easier than ever. With DroneDeploy Ground Robotics, users can send these ground robots on autonomous inspection missions. Equipped with payloads, cameras or sensors, the robots capture data on indoor or outdoor environments and push this back to the DroneDeploy platform for analysis.
This means you can remotely capture data in a wide range of business environments, use accurate and up-to-date data to inform decision-making and reduce your reliance on manual inspections – saving significant time and costs. If you’re interested in learning more about our Ground Robotics beta program for enterprise, get in touch today.