Komatsu uses drones to automate excavation work

Global number two edges forward in the technological arms race with automated excavation

Komatsu's SmartConstruction uses drones to create detailed 3D site maps.
Komatsu's SmartConstruction uses drones to create detailed 3D site maps.

Equipment manufacturer Komatsu is rolling out a service, initially in the US, that will enable drones to cut down on the labour required for excavation and earthwork on construction projects.

The service goes by the name SmartConstruction, and uses drones to create a detailed 3D site map that is then compared to a project blueprint to determine how much earth needs to be moved.

Komatsu construction machinery equipped with machine control and communications technology can then read the data and automatically excavate material to the specified elevations.

The system follows similar efforts by Komatsu in the mining sector, where the manufacturer had already fully automated the operation of entire fleets of rigid dump trucks in Australia and Chile.

Komatsu’s announcement of SmartConstruction also follow its partnership in with US firm Skycatch, a provider of drone data and aerial mapping to the construction, mining, and energy sectors.

At the time, Komatsu official noted: “One of the core components of SmartConstruction is survey of site conditions. Skycatch’s UAV-deployed site survey has proven to be a highly valuable solution for our customers due to the incredibly fast delivery of such high-precision data.”

Caterpillar has also taken note of the rise of drones in the construction industry, and at the start of the year announced its partnership with Redbird, a company with a similar focus of drone data and aerial mapping.

Emmanuel de Maistre, CEO and co-founder of Redbird, commented: “Drones are entering a phase with data analytics at its heart. Our solutions have been developed with construction and quarry operators for the past two years, helping them extract the real value out of drone data.”

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