The remote controlled ultra-large hydraulic excavator will be developed in order to improve the working environment and ensure the safety of operators. This excavator will be equipped with operator support systems, such as a collision avoidance system with other mining equipment, to ensure the same level of operability as with the operator on board the machinery. Following the initial development, some part of the excavation and loading operation will be automated to allow a single remote operator to operate multiple ultra-large hydraulic excavators. The incremental development will eventually realize the ultra-large hydraulic excavators with autonomous operation features.
The remote control system, driving support system for manned excavator and autonomous operation features are all retrofittable onto the EX-7 series of ultra-large hydraulic excavators, to enable mining site customers to utilize the equipment that they currently operate while supporting autonomous operation at mining sites in the future.
Mining resources including iron ore and copper sustain the activities of global industries, and the sites which mine these resources are required to operate in a stable manner 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In contrast, the operators of ultra-large hydraulic excavators are required to repeatedly perform complex operations for a long period of time while paying attention to avoid collision with surrounding equipment and the stability of the vehicle, in order to excavate and load mining resources in an efficient manner. Because the safety and productivity of ultra-large hydraulic excavator operation largely depends on the operator’s skill and experience, building a production system which does not depend on the operator’s skill and reducing the operator’s workload are important issues at mining sites.
The Hitachi Construction Machinery Group has regarded the high reliability and durability of its ultra-large hydraulic excavators as an advantage since it entered the mining machinery business in the late 1970s. At the same time, the company used a remote-controlled unmanned excavator to advance the development of technologies in the reconstruction work at Mount Unzen Fugen-dake volcanic eruption in 1992. In 2013, we led the industry by advancing the development of technologies for long-distance remote control by remotely operating a hydraulic excavator located in the Urahoro test site, Hokkaido over an Internet connection from approximately 800 km away in Tsuchiura City, Ibaraki Prefecture. Now, we have decided to begin verification tests at an actual mining site to advance the development of autonomous driving for ultra-large hydraulic excavators, reflecting the needs of customers.
Autonomous operation for ultra-large hydraulic excavators can be deployed as a stand-alone system or as a part of fleet management system (FMS), such as the Fleet Control from Wenco International Mining Systems Ltd. (hereinafter, “Wenco”), our subsidiary which has a substantial implementation track record at large-scale mines. Our goal is to balance a high degree of safety and productivity by having autonomous operation through sharing the information among the autonomous ultra-large hydraulic excavators, dump trucks and other equipment.