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Brazil: Teleoperation of heavy vehicles in high-risk zone

A producer of iron ore located in Brazil required a solution to simultaneously manage and operate multiple pieces of heavy machinery inside high-risk areas of a dam without any human operators onsite.

Sitech Brazil, a partner of the mining company and Rajant Corporation, designed and supplied the solution. Both companies are global distributors of technology products promoting increased productivity through innovative Trimble and Skydrones solutions.

The Challenge

The collapse of specific dams in Brazil required direct and immediate action to address high-risk conditions. For the local iron ore producer, reducing the number of people directly involved in the perilous process of dam maintenance and reconstruction was paramount. Sitech Brazil developed a solution to carry out the entire construction process without human presence in the risk area to increase safety. Remotely covering the whole area with simultaneous management of multiple pieces of heavy machinery was a tall order. According to Sitech Brazil Technical Manager Tiago Barros, “Often, the work to be done is to sites with a lot of interference. The elevation also varies between the backhaul and the equipment.”

The Solution

The Remote Operation Area involved 17 dozers, excavators, loaders, and trucks. Suppplied by Rajant

The Remote Operation Area involved 17 dozers, excavators, loaders, and trucks. Suppplied by Rajant

The company successfully separated people from the risks inherent to the work area by dividing overall operations into the Remote Operation Area and Operation Safe Zone.

The Remote Operation Area involved 17 dozers, excavators, loaders, and trucks. The Operation Safe Zone had command centre shelters where simultaneous teleoperations and software monitoring were conducted to manage the heavy-duty equipment. Connecting both zones was the Rajant industrial wireless network. The teleoperation software and controls were provided by Nevil Eletro Mecanica of Brazil, leveraging Sitech Brazil’s integration and engineering expertise.

Programmed drones carried out a topography survey. Terrain data was collected and loaded on machines, such as dozer and motor graders, and through automation, access to the remote site was created from a distance – operators were 23 kilometres away.

After access was prepared, the excavator loading equipment entered the area to start extracting material, while transport equipment entered to remove this material from within the site. During the process, drones carried out flights for monitoring and production analysis of the operation. The Rajant network carried out all communication in a secure location, and the entire operation took place without any person at risk.

“The simultaneous nature of operations between machines was and continues to be a feat of safety and productivity. Downtime and risk are eliminated through the machine learning applied to earthmoving equipment. Only a robust, reliable, and redundant wireless network can do this, and do it without infrastructure, to go where the work is required,” says Barros.

Far beyond being a specific solution, this technology can be scaled organically and adjusted to other projects seeking to ensure the safety of human life.