Teleoperation of Heavy Machinery The next generation remote-control of plant machinery and construction vehicles



Why should I use Teleoperation for controlling plant machinery?

Imagine situations in hazardous areas where operating a machine or vehicle is dangerous to human life. For autonomous vehicles, machinery needs to be maneuvered around obstacles or hazards that its sensors and logic cannot understand. There are many hazardous areas deemed high-risk to operate within, requiring human logic to view in real time to decipher and determine the best course of action. Examples include areas affected by earthquakes, avalanche zones needing clearing, or minefields in war zones where a mine clearance machine needs to be remotely operated. Because of the dangers involved, it would be too risky to put people in harm’s way. If vehicles can be deployed in areas unsafe for human operation, machinery can be remotely operated in real time from a distance, even from another country. This applies not only to heavy plant machinery but also to vehicles such as cars, buses, and heavy goods vehicles like lorries and trucks.

In war zones with booby traps or potential snipers, or in biologically hazardous or radioactive areas, or old military sites with potential unexploded ordnance, remote operation is safer than risking the local driver’s life. Even in unstable landscapes caused by simple geology, utilizing a remote operator is preferable.

Even where areas are not hazardous, remote operators can be used when there is a shortage of skilled operators. A single operator would not need to travel between sites and could potentially handle multiple jobs in one day from a single location. This reduces travel expenses, as only the machinery needs to be transported.

What is the technology behind teleoperation?

The major overriding factor is safety. To facilitate remote driving of cars or heavy machinery, the remote operator needs a real-time view with almost no latency. The remote operator, known as a teleoperator, often uses a vehicle simulator to control and operate the machine without delay.

For example, imagine a car pulling onto a main road: the view the driver sees must be in real time. Even a one-second delay to a remote operator could lead to catastrophic consequences. Much can happen in a single second on the road. The same applies to controlling heavy machinery in hazardous environments.

Soliton Systems, a Japanese manufacturer of live streaming solutions, has been working with several manufacturers of vehicles, machinery, and cranes to deliver safe remote-control solutions for teleoperators. This includes collaboration with a major automobile company in Japan to deliver a remote driving vehicle that can be operated by a teleoperator.

Teleoperation is essential for operating machinery in hazardous or inaccessible areas where human presence would be too risky. It enhances safety by allowing operators to control machines from a safe distance, even across countries, reducing the need for on-site human operators. This technology also addresses the shortage of skilled operators and improves operational efficiency by enabling one operator to handle multiple jobs remotely.

Remote driving

                                                      Automatically Generated Cockpit Screens


Requirements of Teleoperation

  • To live stream video with super low latency to a remote vehicle simulator
  • To live stream reliably over untethered cellular networks securely even in challenging network conditions
  • To have a return network path to the remote vehicle for the remote driving operations
  • Security, reliability and quality in both the live streaming and return control signal

Soliton has a legacy in providing mobile live streaming video solutions that are used by many defence, automotive, robot, construction, and drone companies as well as global broadcasters for live news gathering, live sports production, and encrypted mobile surveillance for use with law enforcement.

With their Zao products, Soliton were the first to market with a mobile H.265 HEVC encoder that could live stream full HD video over multiple 4G connections simultaneously. They were also the first to offer a solution with a latency as low as 35ms from camera to the remote receiving platform. This latency is unprecedented for mobile encoders over cellular networks and is even more impressive when AES256 encryption is involved.

To ensure reliability, they utilize a bonding technique within their streaming protocol over 4G known as RASCOW2. The Zao X (hardware transmitter) and Zao SDK (software) can utilize a combination of IP networks, whether it is 4G LTE, 5G, Wi-Fi, private RF, or Satcom. With cellular, different SIM cards from various network operators can be bonded together as a single connection for reliability, resilience, and bandwidth. At the receiving end, the video is reassembled. This technique, coupled with H.265 compression, provides a very reliable stream even if some networks disappear or are in contention with many users, such as at a well-attended public event. RASCOW2 can optimize the video stream even if there is very low signal on all the network operators, ensuring video is delivered even in the most challenging network conditions.

For the vehicle and machinery at the control end, the receiver, used by the simulator, converts the outputs from steering, accelerating, braking, and other operational functions into a digital stream such as for example with controller area network (CAN) commands. This stream is sent back via the same bonded IP network, whether it is 4G or another network. The output is then converted into a series of hydraulic commands that are used to operate the vehicle via a series of servo actuators.

The aim of the Zao products is to deliver ultra-low latency encrypted video streaming with full high-quality HD/4K video in a reliable manner, with a return path for remote control.

Soliton’s Zao products provide groundbreaking mobile live streaming video solutions with ultra-low latency, high-quality video, and reliable encryption, making them ideal for a wide range of industries including defense, automotive, robotics, and broadcasting. The use of advanced techniques like RASCOW2 ensures dependable streaming even in challenging conditions, and the technology supports remote control of vehicles and machinery with precise command transmission.

If you wish to understand more about what Soliton Systems can do for you in terms of remote driving or remote machinery operation, then please contact us for more information.


Anita Ghosh

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